Originally published by WKBW Channel 7, “Bethlehem Steel Back in the Spotlight” by Jason Gruenauer, January 25, 2013.
Bethlehem Steel shut its doors in 1983, but its issues persist to this day.
Congressman Brian Higgins continued his fight for former workers on Friday, some who were exposed to radiation while working at the plant. He spoke at a meeting of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, and says the federal government needs to show proof it cleaned up the uranium being rolled at the plant or pay up to those deserving workers.
“The fact of the matter is people have been wronged. They should have been made aware of the exposure, if they were back when it occurred, perhaps precautions could have been made to mitigate the health effects of that,” Higgins said.
In 2010, more than 200 million dollars was paid out to a class of workers employed at the plant from 1949-1952. Now Higgins wants to include all workers who may have been exposed through 1976.
“People unbeknown to them were exposed to something the federal government was responsible for. So it’s really not a question of how much it costs in the end, it’s a question of economic justice,” Higgins added.
Anyone who believes they may have been affected is asked to contact Congressman Higgins’ office. For email and phone listings, head to this site http://higgins.house.gov/contact/.
Meanwhile, just down the road a long standing symbol of Bethlehem Steel has begun to come down. And as crews work on demolition of the administration building, one single protestor remains camped out since last Wednesday, continuing to fight for preservation.
“I just wish someone would step in and give it a reprieve, it deserves it. It is our history, it is our legacy, it is our heritage for Western New York,” protestor John Nowak said.
Originally published by Preservation Buffalo Niagara, ‘It didn’t have to end this way-Demolition work begins at Bethlehem Steel Building” by Executive Director, Tom Yots, January 25, 2013, in their e-newsletter.
It didn’t have to end this way. After months of debate and fervent activity the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna is coming down. No, indeed, it did not have to end this way. Community activists Dana Saylor and David Torke brought this to the public’s attention in March of 2012 and Lackawanna’s own Danielle Huber with the help of the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group provided a vehicle for interested residents to become involved.
In spite of these efforts by the citizenry, the administration and the city council turned their backs on the pleas to allow the building to be saved. Preservation Buffalo Niagara(PBN) spoke on the Certified Local Government program at the community discussion panel that was held in June and brought one of our bike tours out to the site to demonstrate the interest of the public.
PBN also brought in the State Historic Preservation office, first to stop the misuse of Restore New York money set to demolish the building and then to meet with the city and community leaders regarding the Certified Local Government program that would allow Lackawanna to receive lucrative historic preservation grants in return for establishing a preservation ordinance and commission.
The community leaders and the SHPO’s Julian Adams came to that meeting at PBN’s office but the Lackawanna city administration and council were conspicuously absent. Local attorney Bill Magavern, whose family had been connected to Bethlehem Steel a couple of generations back, offered $100,000 of his own money toward the implementation of a plan to save the building.
Still, there was no response from the city or the owner. After conferring with Magavern, PBN contacted the office of the city court judge overseeing the issue as recently as last week to convey the message that Magavern’s offer still stood, and again there was no response from the city.
No, this did not have to end this way. Many people tried to make this work and the public did not object. Instead, there was an outpouring of how much this building meant to people. The comments ranging from words on the significance of its history to heartfelt tributes to its beauty of design and construction showed up regularly in the local media. Many said how many times they had driven by this building and were struck by its timeless beauty and how much it would be missed if it were gone.
Yet in the 30 years it remained vacant, neglected by the owner who had taken over after Bethlehem Steel left the site, no one came forward to advocate for its preservation until the threat was so very real. Here, perhaps, we all have failed by waiting for someone else—a private owner, the municipality, some not-for-profit— to step in and do something to keep it there.
But that did not happen and, instead, it fell victim to neglect and abandonment and, yes, victim to a culture that is not proactive enough to stop these destructive elements before it reaches this point.
Driving down route 5 will not be the same in the future since one of the sites that made people smile will be gone. And, no, it didn’t have to end this way, but it did.
Originally published as “Razing of Bethlehem Steel building begins, but preservationists to continue fight” by WBFO 88.7am, Buffalo’s NPR News Station, by Eileen Buckley, January 25, 2013.
Despite efforts by area preservationists over the last nine months, demolition of the former Bethlehem Steel Administration building in Lackawanna started Thursday. But members of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists say they are not giving up on trying to save the structure.
Preservationist Dana Saylor tells WBFO News although work is underway to tear down the structure, the group will continue to protest to save part of the building.
“Until that facade comes down, we’re not done. And even when that happens, we still are going to be following the money trail. We want to see what the demolition contractors made from this deal,” Saylor said.
Saylor admits preservationists have little legal recourse at this point unless improper demolition practices or asbestos disposals are witnessed.
Citizens working to save the building say Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski and Gateway Trade, which owns the building, has refused to listen to their concerns in stopping the wrecking ball.
“We have asked them to come to the table numerous times and there was never really a genuine attempt to do that,” said Saylor.
“[Szymanski] never asked for community input. He just went ahead and did it. Even when we handed him 600 local signatures from the petition, he still refused to come to the table,” she added.
Preservationists say the 1901 building is eligible for both state and national registers of historic places.
Originally published by Buffalo Spree, “An Outrage in Lackawanna” by Elizabeth Licata, January 25, 2013.
As it looked in the summer of 2011.
In what universe does a magnificent structure like this get thrown into a landfill? Imagine if this building were located in the Elmwood Village area or in Parkside. Given the fact that lesser endangered structures throughout the city have been preserved and reused, I feel confident that the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building (aka North Office) never would have been allowed to reach such a deplorable impasse in 21st century Buffalo. Maybe I am naïve, but I am treating this as a tragically unfortunate throwback to a stupider time.
In any case, as I write this, the North Office is being demolished, starting at the rear of the building.
We wrote about the North Office and its central role in Buffalo’s early steel industry in September, 2011. Since at least that time, local preservation activists have been raising awareness of its plight with meetings, press conferences, petitions, and outreach to the owners and city officials, all apparently to no avail.
The astoundingly unenlightened mayor of Lackawanna, NY must think he’s living in the bulldozer-happy fifties and sixties. With absolutely no future plan for the empty site from owners Gateway Trade and zero outreach to possible developers—in fact, it now appears that developers were actively discouraged—Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski has ordered that Gateway demolish the North Office. Why he’s in such a hurry to get rid of a structure that isn’t posing any kind of threat is anybody’s guess.
I have visited the building several times, though I’ve never been inside. It does not seem to endanger public safety—its location alone makes that unlikely. It’s anybody’s guess as to why it urgently needs to be taken down.
The possible reuses for this structure include many nonprofit and commercial options—its incredible architecture details would be a fitting counterpoint to the scenic beauty that is finally unfolding along the outer harbor as walks and parks are gradually added to the formerly bleak expanse. It will take a while to make the outer harbor a suitable place for recreation and commerce, but the North Office could have played a major role. Given time, imagination, and resources, this building could have become …
We’ll never know.