Originally published by The Buffalo News, “Judge reserves decision in building demolition,” February 14, 2013.
Preservationists remained cautiously optimistic Wednesday, after Lackawanna City Judge Frederic Marrano reserved decision on a lawsuit that would vacate a previously issued order allowing the demolition of the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building.
Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, which filed the lawsuit Friday, reiterated its hope to meet with the building’s owner, Gateway Trade Center.
It also announced that a reuse team of real estate, planning and preservation specialists headed by Barbara Campagna, former chief architect for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has been assembled to assist the company if it decides to take advantage of a $500,000 Restore New York grant.
“We remain committed to sitting down with Steven Detwiler at his earliest convenience to help Gateway reposition the building to take advantage of progress being made along the waterfront,” said preservationist David Torke.
Originally published as “Judge Reserves Decision On Bethlehem Demo” WGRZ Channel 2, February 13, 2o13.
A judge has reserved decision on the latest bid by preservationists to save the former Lackawanna Steel Administration Building from demolition.
An attorney representing the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group appeared before City Court Judge Frederic J. Marrano on Wednesday, to argue there was new information to consider, which had been inaccessible when the same court previously ruled that the demolition of the more than century old landmark, could proceed.
Attorney Richard Berger cited a previously unreleased engineering study, which he claims shows that, despite contentions by the City of Lackawanna that the building was in danger of collapse, it is actually structurally sound.
If that is the case, according to Berger, then the judge should keep the wreckers ball at bay, because the building–which qualifies for historic status, would require a lot more than just a simple demolition permit to raze.
“Under New York State law and the Environmental Quality Review Act, this would require at least an environmental assessment,” said Berger. “In this case, because it’s a building that’s eligible for both state and national registers of historic places it’s absolutely required.”
Berger also says if the structure is not deemed to be in danger of falling down, then it could open the door for hundreds of thousands of preservation dollars from the state to help its owners –Gateway Development– renovate it for an adaptive re-use, if they should so desire.
While demolition had already begun at site, all that’s been taken down thus far has been an outbuilding that once housed a chemistry lab. The actual Beaux Arts administration building, according to Berger, hasn’t been damaged, and is still very much worth saving.
Originally published by fixBuffalo.blogspot.com, “I’m Steel Standing in Court: Part I” written by David Torke, Feb 9, 2013.
The National Register eligible Bethlehem Steel Administration building in Lackawanna, NY has been under direct threat of demolition since May 2012. Over the course of the summer there were numerous attempts made to broker a deal with the building’s owner, however, those efforts ended unsuccessfully. The City of Lackawanna stayed its course and continued to argue for the building’s demolition. In late January, crews from Zoladz Construction began demolition, starting with the chemistry lab located in the back of the building.
Since then, the area’s preservation groups remained silent as if the building’s fate had been sealed. Preservation Buffalo Niagara issued a statement shortly after demolition began last month. “It didn’t have to end this way,” according to PBN’s Executive Director Tom Yots.
As the demolition began, a small group of activists which included Meagan Baco, Lesley Horowitz, Dana Saylor and myself focused on the next steps in saving this historically significant industrial icon.
Our research uncovered a previously withheld structural engineering report conducted last August by Klepper Hahn & Hyatt. This report was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and confirmed what we’d already suspected through our own photographic documentation: that the building is structurally sound.
The KHH report’s findings directly contradict Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officer Steven Bremer’s own observations and conclusions about the building’s condition.
It is unsafe to come in…the whole building is going to implode. – Steven Bremer Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officer, May 2012
We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at risk of imminent collapse. – Klepper Hahn & Hyatt, August 2012
Within hours of reading the KHH report our group reviewed the case with attorney Richard Berger who advised us that there were grounds for a lawsuit. We proceeded to contact two additional attorneys Michael Raleigh and Paul Fusco-Gessick who were also brought in to work on the case. On Thursday, February 7th we held a press conference announcing our findings and our readiness to file the lawsuit against the building’s owner.
On Friday, February 8th a lawsuit was filed in Lackawanna City Court by attorney Richard Berger. The plaintiff is the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, which was formed last year to raise awareness about the industrial history of Lackawanna NY and the building’s history. The group had previously protested the demolition action and in June held a public hearing on the future of the building with professional preservationists and Lackawanna Common Council President Henry Pirowski as panelists.
Hon. Fredderic Marrano has granted a hearing on the matter which is scheduled for February 13 at 1pm in Lackawanna City Court.
Meanwhile, the Court is allowing the demolition to proceed. This image from February 7, 2013 shows the extent of the current demolition activity. The chemistry lab building is mostly demolished. Here’s the May 2012 record image.
In a related matter Lackawanna resident and activist John Nowak has been protesting the building’s threatened demolition with a hunger strike. He’s been camped out in front of the building since mid December. Members of this group remain tremendously supportive of his efforts and would like to encourage you to come down and speak to him and lend your support in any way you can.
For the latest developments and background information about the lawsuit, the building and the building’s significance please join the FaceBook Group Save the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building and visit I’m Steel Standing the official website for this group’s work.
Mike Puma covered the press conference for Buffalo Rising here and Mark Sommer from the Buffalo News, here.
Here’s the full text of the Memorandum of Law filed with Lackawanna City Court and Order to Show Cause that was signed by Judge Marrano on Friday.
Since breaking the demolition story in May 2012, this blog has covered the story continuously. Many of the links are aggregated here: Bethlehem Steel Public Hearing.
Photos by Lisa Willis.
Originally published by YNN News, “Group files another suit against Bethlehem Steel owner” by Katie Cummings, February 7, 2013.
Demolition at Bethlehem Steel started in late January, but the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage group wants all demolition at the site to stop until an investigation can take place.
The group plans to file a lawsuit in Lackawanna City Court on Friday morning after it recently received a report on the structural integrity of the building.
“There were several other reports which were presented to the court which said the building is unsafe, it needs to get knocked down, and this report directly contradicts everything that was in there,” said Paul Fusco-Gessick, Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group attorney.
The group says the report was paid for the owner, Gateway Trade, and conducted by a Syracuse-based architectural firm. It states the walls are upright and the overall structure is not at imminent risk of collapse.
Some members of the group say the owner kept the report a secret because it would interfere with state funding.
“That ruined their chances of getting the Restore NY money and they didn’t want to publicize that, they didn’t want anyone else to know because the city wanted to be able to continue its case,” said Dana Saylor.
Preservationists want the building to be saved since they feel it’s a integral part of the area.
“My husband, who passed away just a month ago, worked there for 42 years and he went through this building to get his job and so I think it’s an icon for the city of Lackawanna, we should have this building,” said Romaine Lilli, Lackawanna Historical Society.
“We now have a time to step back and investigate and look at intelligent re-use of the building,” said David Torke.
YNN reached out to Gateway Trade, but calls were not returned. YNN also contacted city of Lackawanna officials but were told no one was available for comment.
Lawsuit over demo of Bethlehem Steel [Link to Video]
Originally published by WIVB.
The fight to save the old Bethlehem Steel administration building is not over, even though part of the building has already been torn down.
The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group is suing the building’s current owners, claiming the Gateway Trade Group withheld an engineering report from the city that said the building is structurally sound and doesn’t need to be demolished.
Attorney Paul Fusco-Gessick said, “There were several other reports which were presented to the court which said the building was unsafe and needed to get knocked down. And this report directly contradicts everything that was in that.”
This lawsuit will officially be filed in City Court on Friday
Originally published by The Buffalo News, “Activists sue to save Bethlehem Steel site,” by Mark Sommer, 2013 02 07.
Activists still fighting to save the embattled Bethlehem Steel Administration Building announced Thursday they are filing a lawsuit today against Gateway Trade Center, contending the company hid a structural engineering report filed in August that concluded the building was structurally sound.
The lawsuit, filed by the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, urges Lackawanna City Court to immediately halt demolition that has begun on a rear chemical laboratory at the site off Route 5 near the Buffalo city line. The demolition ball has not touched the long-vacant 1901 Beaux Arts-style administration building – with its ornate facade – that preservationists have rallied to save.
“With this lawsuit, we’re hoping we can stop the bulldozers and take the time to do a proper investigation and a proper reuse study,” said David Torke, a member of the group.
The report by Klepper Hahn & Hyatt, based in Syracuse, concluded that the administration building was in better shape than previously thought. It stands in contrast to views expressed by Steven Bremer, Lackawanna’s code enforcement officer, and two prior studies in which engineers did not gain access to the building.
The preservationists obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Law request.
“We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at imminent risk of collapse at this time. The collapsing ceilings and abundance of debris observed in the building gives a false illusion of the floors collapsing,” the report said.
It recommended the removal of dormers, parapets, chimneys and other areas in danger of collapse; selective demolition to better gauge the building’s health; and sealing all roof and window openings to keep the elements out.
Torke said the two prior studies had been the “ammunition” used by the City of Lackawanna to push for demolition. He also raised concerns that Parker Bay Engineering, which did the first report concluding the property needed to be torn down, shared office space with Empire Dismantlement, the demolition contractor first hired by Gateway before the Erie County Court-ordered demolition at the city’s request was temporarily stayed from May to November. Zoladz Construction Co. was subsequently hired to perform the demolition.
Klepper, Hahn & Hyatt was chosen by Gateway from a list provided by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which suggested a firm with experience in historic buildings. The agency was required to sign off because Gateway sought a state Restore New York grant, which required the engineering report and a reuse study that never materialized. The company indicated it hoped to use the funds for asbestos removal and possibly demolition.
“Gateway has not only been irresponsible in taking care of the building, but they are asking for state money to continue to shrug their responsibility,” preservationist Meagan Baco said.
Dana Saylor, another preservationist, said she hoped the lawsuit will compel Gateway to follow through on the Restore New York funding requirements and conduct the reuse study.
Originally published by Buffalo Rising, “Uncovered Structural Engineering Report Declares Bethlehem Steel Administration Building Structurally Sound” by Mike Puma, 2013 02 07.
The fight is far from over in Lackawanna to save the Bethlehem Steel Administration building. Although demolition at the rear of the building started two weeks ago, it has been halted for the last six days for unknown reasons. So far only the small chemistry lab, which was a later addition, has been demolished. The remainder of the structure remains standing.
New evidence has come to light that the building is in fact structurally sound despite the consistent information to the contrary by the owners of the building, Gateway Trade Center and the mayor of Lackawanna, Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski. Both have insisted that structural and engineering reports for the building have deemed it structurally unsound.
This independent report was withheld from the courts by the City of Lackawanna and the Gateway Trade Center owner, Steven Detwiler. The truth has been revealed thanks to the perseverance of members in the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG), Meagan Baco, David Torke, Lesley Horowitz, and Dana Saylor. Additionally, they received help from two attorneys who are new to Buffalo, Michael Raleigh and Paul Fusco-Gessick. The structural report was obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) request.
The full structural report that was completed by Klepper, Hahn, & Hyatt on August 3, 2012 reveals a different story than the owners and the mayor have been peddling; the building is in fact, structurally sound. To read the full report, click here.
The report details the existing condition of the building and notes the limitations of the study, but ultimately concluded, “We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at imminent risk of collapse at this time. The collapsing ceilings and abundance of debris observed in the building gives a false illusion of the floors collapsing.” It went on to say, “the steel beams have surface rust however we did not observe major scaling or failure of the major structural elements” and “we did not observe large areas of the floor or roof structure that appeared to be on the verge of collapse.”Once again, the full report can be read by clicking here.
With this new information in hand, the LIHG (plaintiff) has brought a lawsuit against the owner at Gateway Trade Center, Steven Detweiler (defendant) to halt all demolition until an investigation can take place.