A Lackawanna preservationist who wants to save the dilapidated but architecturally significant Bethlehem Steel Administration Building from the wrecking ball said Monday that her organization would continue its efforts “until bulldozers hit that building.”
Danielle Huber, founder of the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, which has been fighting to preserve the ornate 1901 building, blamed city officials for not doing enough to assist the organization’s efforts.
“If we don’t have the city on our side, we are not going to be successful,” Huber told members of the Lackawanna City Council. “It’s extremely frustrating that this city sees red in regards to preservation.”
But City Attorney Norman A. LeBlanc Jr. said Huber’s criticisms were misplaced and he defended the city’s handling of the crumbling structure along Fuhrmann Boulevard, near the Buffalo border.
“We are not opposed to saving historic buildings or reusing buildings,” he said.
City officials have provided the building’s current owner, Gateway Trade Center, ample time to submit reuse plans for the structure, which has been vacant for about 30 years, said LeBlanc. A potential investor in the property also was encouraged to submit plans or outlines for the building’s future and also failed to provide anything, he said.
“We have yet to see one proposal,” he said.
LeBlanc pointed out that two engineering studies indicated structural deficiencies in the building, including one that stated it was “in danger of a catastrophic collapse.”
Gateway, he added, has been stalling for 11 months and appears to have never intended to pursue any reuse of the building.
“They’ve never done anything they were supposed to do,” he said.
The city received a court order in the spring to force an emergency demolition, but the wrecking ball was delayed in August when Erie County Court Judge Kenneth F. Case issued a 90-day stay so that Gateway could pursue alternatives.
Gateway provided no other options, and Case lifted the stay last week.
LeBlanc told the Council that if Gateway doesn’t comply with the judge’s order within the next five or six days, he will seek a contempt hearing.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Council members were introduced to Tony DeSantis, who was appointed by Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski as acting public works commissioner.
DeSantis succeeds longtime Public Works Commissioner Thomas N. Love, who resigned in November, six months after Council members voted to slash his pay to $10,000 per year.