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May 2013

No written demo order; demo of Beth Steel Admin still shut down

After hearing arguments for over an hour in The Campaign for Greater Buffalo's lawsuit against the City of Lackawanna and Gateway Trade to prevent demolition of the former Bethlehem Steel Administration Building, State Supreme Court Judge stated Wednesday that he was lifting the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) put in place last week by Judge Thomas Franczyk. Preservationists feared that idled demolition equipment on the site would be revved up with dispatch, rendering moot the adjournment granted The Campaign to respond to defendants' papers filed Tuesday morning. Campaign Executive Director and counsel Richard Beger, also a Campaign board member, elected to immediately prepare papers for the New York Supreme Appellate Division.

A clerk for Judge Erin Perradotto said no TRO could be issued without first having a written order to restrain from the lower court. Back to Judge Dillion, who indicated he would be happy to sign such an order pending review by the defendants. Once an order were received by The Campaign, it would then go immediately to the Appellate Division with its plea for a TRO. Campaign lawyer Berger contacted Gateway counsel to see if they had reviewed the order and was told they had not completed review and responded. Berger jokingly told Gateway counsel that The Campaign was in "no rush" to get the written demo order, and that Gateway and the City of Lackawanna should take their time.

So the Administration Building still stands, The Campaign is still alert, and responses are due to Judge Dillion by close of business on Monday, March 4.


Campaign Gets TRO to Stop Demolition of Bethlehem Steel Administration Building

Lack Iron & Steel
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture has halted the demolition of the historic Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna, pending a hearing scheduled for February 27, 2013 before the Honorable James H. Dillion of the New York State Supreme Court. A Temporary Restraining Order was issued today by the Honorable Thomas Franczyk enjoining the building owner and defendant Gateway Trade Center, Inc. from any actions to demolish or damage the structure built in 1901. The Campaign claims that Gateway did not comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Judge Dillion will decide whether the injunction should be made permanent.

"The Gateway and the City of Lackawanna failed to follow State law in their rush to destroy this building. It is a important symbol of the New York State's history," said Tim Tielman, Executive Director of the Campaign, and we simply cannot allow any entity to heedlessly remove our heritage."

Richard Berger, Esq., representing the Campaign, stated, "SEQRA mandates all agencies of government to prepare an environmental impact statement on any action they propose or approve which may have a significant effect on the environment.  Even actions which do not require a full impact statement  require careful environmental review and findings.  It appears that none was carried out in this instance. This is an important building, deemed by the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to be eligible for both the national and state registers of historic places."

In 1899, The Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company of Scranton, Pennsylvania, the nation's largest steel company, elected to leave its hometown for a flat lakeshore site just south of Buffalo. Property acquisition was rapidly and discretely accomplished by John J. Albright in 1900, and within a year had completed a vast plant on a 1,300-acre site. The mammoth facility was directed from an imposing Beaux-Arts style Administration Building. Constructed of brick, stone, slate, and copper (steel would only come later, in the framing of additions) the building was set behind a treed lawn along the Hamburg Turnpike at the extreme northeast side of the property. It was designed by L.C. Holden of New York, whose work was well known to steel company chief William Walker Scranton. W.W. Scranton was a founding board member of the new Country Club of Scranton (PA) when it hired Holden to design its clubhouse in 1896.

The social and cultural significance of the Administration Building is immense, symbolizing as it does local and national economic might at the dawn of the "American Century." Steel made at the site was exported around the world. Labor actions at the plant (which came under control of Bethlehem Steel when it bought Lackawanna Iron & Steel in 1922) through the years were important local and national milestones. In addition to be the administrative heart of the complex, it also contained medical facilities, and important consideration in a dangerous environment employing over 10,000 people at its peak. The building and its setting constitute a significant cultural landscape, becoming more precious as time passes and the manufacturing infrastructure of the plant is torn down for scrap.

Here is an alternative to the Urban Deathstar on the Webster Block

Loma, Bird's Eye from SW small
Rather than have to read the earlier post about the to find the link to the pdf of the Lower Main (LoMa) proposals that are an alternative to City of Buffalo's plans for a mega-parking ramp on the Webster Block between the Cobblestone Historic District and the Canal District, here's a quick link. But you should read the story. Nice and snarky, and delightfully informative.

Download LoMa Feb 22 

Stop the Ramp Age—Download Your Sign Here!

Stop Ramp Age signs

Hey kids—let your friends, neighbors, countrymen, and the bureaucrats at the Buffalo Department of Butt-Ugly, Soul-Killing, Dead-Zone-Making Parking Ramps know what you think! Download our ready-to-print pdf's from our Stop The Ramp Age Collection. They are sized to print out on 11 x 17 paper, but you can scale them for your cubicle or fridge as well. We like them on flourescent green, available at your favorite copy store.

Download now!

Download Stop the Ramp Age butterfly sign _11x17 

Download Stop the Ramp Age creepy sign_11x17

Urban Deathstar: City, ECHDC Push for Mega-Ramp on Webster Block

ParkingRamp 2
The City of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning and officials of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) are pushing for the construction of a giant parking ramp on the so-called Webster Block on lower Main Street, just across the street from the historic Canal District (which includes Central Wharf and the Commercial Slip, the terminus of the Erie Canal). The ramp would have an immediate and long-lasting negative effect on the Cobblestone Historic District one block to the east and any future development withing the Canal District to the west. The Office of Strategic Planning issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Webster Block (bounded by Main, Scott, Washington, and Perry streets) in the late spring of 2012 that strongly suggested a successful proposal would have to include a large ramp to not only serve use on the site itself, but the ECHDC's development on the block formerly occupied by Memorial Auditorium.

The ECHDC, which views the area as one big open-air themed shopping mall, had plans for a 1,200-car ramp between the Marine Drive Apartments and the Skyway blocked by a lawsuit by Marine Drive residents. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo vigorously opposed the ramp as well, on urban design and historic preservation grounds. In addition, there are over 11,000 parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of the corner of Main and Scott streets, sufficient for the Buffalo Sabres to handle crowds of 18,000. There is no need for additional parking. 

ECHDC, in its Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the "Canal Side Project," issued in 2010 stated that the Webster Block's "primary focus" would not be parking, and that it would be unsuitable for such a ramp, being "designed to incorporate a variety of commercial, cultural, and residential uses."  The report went on to say that "locating a large single-purpose parking structure such as the proposed Commercial Slip Parking Garage" on the Webster, Aud, or Donovan blocks would be "substantially comppromising the objectives of the Canal Side Project which is designed to achieve a critical mass of mixed-use development." Further, "these parcels directly front Metro Rail stations. These parcels would be best utilized for transit-oreinted land uses which would stimulate transit rideship. Therefore, these locations were determined to be unsuitable as alternative potential sites for the Commercial Slip Parking Garage." (Chap. 2.2.3)

Only two proposals were received, by Carl Paladino's Ellicott Development and the Buffalo Sabres hockey club. Both featured the giant parking ramp the development agencies were looking for. The Sabres proposal included two enclosed hockey rinks above a five-level ramp, and a hotel above that. The ramp is so large that it oozes over the bounds of the Webster Block and takes half the width of Washington Street, some of Main, Scott, and Perry streets, and tunnelizes Perry Street between Main and Washington. The five levels of parking are covered with a thoroughly unconvincing and inelegant mash up of Highway Interchange Post-Modern Strip Mall decoration. The two floors of ice rink are sheathed in a trite sinister-looking metallic paneling that looks to be radar-evading. The hotel, perched on the north side so that it would throw the future devlopment across the street into shadow, looks like Iranian Secret Police Headquarters.

The city selected the Sabres proposal.

The Planning Board, in what it took pains to say repeatedly was only an advisory opinion at the first public hearing on the plan (Tuesday February 12 at 8:00 am), voted unanimously in favor of it. As did the Buffalo Common Council on February 19th. The only parties speaking at either meeting for a full environmental review and a sincere and open public process were The Campaign for Greater Buffalo, represented by vice president Dan Sack, and John and Shelley McKendry, building owners in the Cobblestone Historic District, and Tim Tielman, who, in his capacity as principal of The Neighborhood Workshop LLC, was hired by the McKendrys to explore alternatives to the parking-oriented development proposal. Tielman is also the executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo.

How to stop the steamroller? The Campaign is weighing all options. In the meantime, here is the latest iteration of just one possible alternative the The Parking Ramp We Will All Live to Regret: Download LoMa Feb 22