Tag Archives: Lackawanna

Steel Tube Production for Lackawanna

30 May

Chris Smith came across a notice for a public hearing, which was held on the morning of Tuesday May 29th in Lackawanna City Hall regarding an application Welded Tube, USA, Inc. made to the Erie County IDA for a land and incentive package at the “Tecumseh Business Park, Lakewinds Site Parcel 3 at the intersection of Route 5 and Ridge Road in Lackawanna”.  

Under the proposal, Welded Tube intends to build a “new, high speed, efficient steel tube production line for the production of multi-faceted cold formed carbon and HSLA tubular steel for use in the energy tubular industry”.  

The ECIDA would purchase the land and lease it back to Welded Tube, and “contemplates that it will provide financial assistance to the Company for qualifying portions of the Project in the form of sales and use tax exemptions, a mortgage recording tax exemption, and a partial real property tax abatement consistent with the policies of the [ECIDA]”. 

The property in question is a 400 acre brownfield site that sits perhaps not coincidentally right next to the embattled Bethlehem Steel North office building. 

Alfred Culliton, COO of ECIDA says that Welded Tube is a “Canadian operation” looking to open up its first US operation on this Lackawanna site. Culliton says Welded Tube intends to construct further south on the property, near the South Branch crossing, and is in no way related to, or spurring the push to demolish the Bethlehem Steel North office building. 

Welded Tube USA, Inc. is not incorporated in New York State, and there are no Google hits for that name, except for the ECIDA hearing notice.  It appears that cleaning up the former Bethlehem Steel property for prospective residential or recreational purposes is not a priority, and the land will instead further be used for industrial purposes. This place – does it matter? How, and for whom?

Proaction vs. Reaction (UPDATED)

22 May

That’s WGRZ’s report on last night’s protest of the demolition of the Bethlehem Steel administration building adjacent to a crushed stone and cement facility. It’s a shame to see a pretty building go, but as I wrote yesterday, I certainly think this ranks rather low on the priority scale for not just Lackawanna, but western New York at large. 

After so many decades of preservationist battles led by professional activists funded by Buffalo’s foundations – after so many decades of reactive grassroots planning-by-litigation, is anyone amazed that even lowly White Plains, with a population of less than 100,000, has a more modern, better-constructed, better-designed, and more walkable city core than Buffalo?  

Please don’t mistake my sentiment – I think it’s great that we have a treasure trove of gorgeous, architecturally significant buildings to show off here in town. I thank the people who worked/work to save and improve them.

But where does that end? We also have a community that reacts to the proposed demolition of, say, Trico Plant 1 by defaulting to “keep it”. When “architectural significance” isn’t going to fly, they rely instead on appeals to emotion about its personal significance, or the significance of what once took place within that building. Are we going to erect a windshield-wiper museum in Trico? Is it the first, or the best, or the prettiest example of that sort of factory? Is Trico 1 to be treated like it’s equivalent to the Darwin Martin House? 

And preservation shouldn’t be quite so reactive. 

After all, what palpable, positive results do we have to show for our civic fascination with planning-by-litigation, and our mysteriously funded preservation reactivist efforts? I know that the city is still haunted by the demolition of, e.g., the Erie County Savings Bank to make way for the execrable Main Place Tower and the empty, pitiful “mall” attached to it, and that the Larkin Administration Building was demolished, leaving only yet another surface parking lot. But after all these years, you’d think that there’d be a lobbying effort to codify actual rules and regulations. But whereas old Buffalo erred on the side of demolition, perhaps now we err too often on the side of preservation – even of buildings whose historical, cultural, or architectural significance is specious, at best. 

Look – I don’t want pretty buildings demolished any more than anyone else does. And I’m not “in favor” of demolishing the Bethlehem Steel building at issue here. By the same token, I think you should only interfere reactively to a landowner’s use of his privately owned property where there’s a compelling public reason to do so. Dismantle this Bethlehem Steel building and put it someplace else. They did it with the 1831 London Bridge. 

Where’s the push for a land-value tax? Where’s the push to create a binding, uniform set of rules and regulations for handling these things. All that money and influence that the preservationist community enjoys, and we don’t yet have a “do not touch” list of historically, architecturally, or culturally significant buildings for Erie County? We’re just going to back-handedly react to planned demolitions by equating an abandoned building in a concrete factory to Shea’s? 

Sometimes, I think Buffalo’s preservationist community secretly wants these sorts of battles. They don’t really want the problem to be solved through prospective action; with legislation and a binding, predictable set of rules. Tim Tielman’s name is synonymous with architectural preservation in Buffalo, and he wields a lot of influence and has many wealthy and powerful supporters. He’s uniquely positioned to parlay his influence into legislative action. 

But if the problem is solved, what would they do then? 

UPDATE: I’ve been debating regular commenter and BRO writer David Steele in a post at Rustwire, and we’ve been going back and forth, with his ultimate position being that an elimination or reversal of suburban sprawl in WNY would solve problems like this Lackawanna Administration Building. Here’s what I wrote him in reply: 

Continue reading

Places Generally Matter

21 May

The city of Lackawanna is scheduled to demolish the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building, which is an objectively beautiful but neglected building. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that this structure became an important “must-save” for the Buffalo preservationist community, but it is now the subject of overnight vigils and earnest signage urging re-use of the property, and that “this place matters”. 

Would it be nice if the building could be saved and re-used? Absolutely.  It would be absolutely fantastic if there was enough wealth in the area and interest in that site to do something useful, valuable, and forward-thinking with it. But must we? Is this a “must-save”? Why? By what standard? It’s not even particularly persuasive that, e.g., FixBuffalo blogger David Torke has established that the building isn’t as structurally dangerous as the demolition contractor avers

Lackawanna has no preservationist group or community, mostly because it’s the type of city that doesn’t have a lot of time for things that don’t involve work. It’s a gritty, working-class place; not a place with a big architecture enthusiast community. That’s why most – if not all – of the protesters against the demolition of the Bethlehem Steel building come from Buffalo. It would be nice if we could save the building, but it’s not a civic priority. Not a “must do”. 

How would we know if it was a must-do, anyway? After so many years of these ad hoc battles every time an architecturally pretty building becomes endangered, we still don’t have an objective set of established rules, lists, regulations, and laws to govern what does and doesn’t get torn down, and the process to do so. After all these years, it still boils down to, “holy crap, [municipal or private entity] is going to demolish [building no one really thought much about until it became endangered]! Let’s react!”

And react they did. Twitter, Facebook, even Instagram all have emotional entreaties to save that building. Torke has written a series of blog posts, including his images of exploring the structure

One of the most common pleas to emotion regarding the Bethlehem Steel building and, earlier, the Trico Plant 1 is that “this place matters”. Well, of course. Everyplace matters. Of all the arguments against demolishing an old, pretty building, is the fact that it “matters” to people the most persuasive and insightful argument?

During the Trico debates, one person went so far as to say the building should be preserved because her parents met while working there. Under that standard, we’d effectively ban demolition of every building, everywhere. Why, I’ll bet someone’s parents met while working at the Donovan Building, but I don’t see anyone clamoring for preserving its facade. I’m sure Buffalo City Court – the ugliest building in Christendom – matters to someone, but if the state decided it needed to be replaced by something less fortress-like, I’d hold a parade. 

So, perhaps we should dispense with the emotion-driven “this place matters” nonsense. Of course “this” place matters, because all places “matter”. 

But what does all of this say about our civic priorities? Lackawanna is a city that was decimated by Bethlehem Steel’s closure. That entire waterfront is a monument, alright – a monument to a century of unregulated environmental destruction of what was once a gorgeous coastline. Just as Trico is a monument to an industrial exodus from WNY to places with palm trees, Bethlehem Steel is a headstone for a uniquely Buffalonian past – ecological crisis to serve a master hundreds of miles away. 

I flew over the site on Friday. Here are two images as I approached the building we’re talking about: 

Approach from the west

Site is indicated

Notice anything there? How about the acres and acres of brownfield that surrounds the site and would likely cost millions – if not tens of millions – to clean up and convert into something that didn’t just randomly poison people. Where’s the political or civic will to actually transform this lakefront into something remotely usable by people? It’s so contaminated that its highest and best use is as land for buildings supplies and really big – often stationary – windmills. Not apartments, or offices, or shops or parkland – it’s so dangerous that people aren’t even generally allowed there.  

A drive down Route 5 from about Gallagher Beach, south to Lackawanna is a tour of despair, decay, and rottenness. What are we going to do as a society – as a community – to right a massive and longstanding wrong? The land where this building is located is owned by Gateway Trade – an industrial park that houses a crushed stone company

We could reclaim that land for general use and public enjoyment, but we’re focused on one pretty building. 

I submit that preserving the pretty building is a nice sentiment, but not a civic priority. Appeals to emotion do not justification make. Cleaning up the lakefront and the contaminated land that once was home to the steel industry, so that it’s fit for human habitation? That’s the real outrage – that’s the real “must do.” And it doesn’t get any less expensive the longer we sit and wait. 

Perhaps we could set up a committee and hold a series of public hearings. 

Primary Day Today

13 Sep

This little story about a pay-for-play solicitation letter is becoming something of a regional nanoscandal. Yesterday, Channel 2’s Marissa Bailey tried to interview Republican candidate for Supervisor, David Hartzell.  It went hilariously.

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Finally, Hartzell sent along a statement reading:

I am fighting to end the “Pay to Play” mentality that is rampant in the Town of Clarence.

Quite obviously, what he really means is that he wants the pay to come to him, and he’ll control who plays, because as I’ve discussed, the current  town administration is hardly corruptible by money or influence – even the money and influence of a Wegmans.

Here’s what the Republican candidate says on his Facebook page:

All independence and Conservative voters who care about the future of the Town of Clarence need to get out and vote next Tuesday for the only ENDORSED candidate for Supervisor, Dave Hartzell. REFUSE to accept the current supervisors 35% tax increase over the next four years. YOU truly have the FUTURE of Clarence in YOUR hands!!

Setting aside the poor punctuation, you see where he accuses incumbent Supervisor Scott Bylewski of a “35% tax increase over the next four years”? That means that Dave Hartzell – former circus performer and current financial advisor – doesn’t understand how to read the town budget. That Facebook post echoes something Hartzell wrote in an ad that appeared in the Clarence Bee, where he referred to out-year projections as “proposals”.  They’re not.

Proposal vs. projection. There are either two explanations for this:

1. Hartzell knows exactly what’s in that document, and he’s lying to the electorate; or

2. Hartzell has no idea what the difference is, and is unqualified to be Supervisor.

Either way, it’s an insult to the voters in the town of Clarence.

If you’re a registered Independent Party voter or Conservative Party voter in the town of Clarence, I urge you to go to the polls today – Tuesday the 13th – and write-in Scott Bylewski for Supervisor.

He was denied these horrific minor party lines due to outright corruption. The Erie County Independence Party had recommended to the state committee that Bylewski be endorsed, but was overruled by a corrupt apparatus that has cast its lot with the Republicans in exchange for favors and patronage. The chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party withheld his personal party’s nomination due to the fact that Bylewski didn’t steamroll the Wegmans proposal through the zoning and town boards, and instead followed established process.

A vote for Scott is a vote against patronage, intimidation, pay-for-play, and the typical corruption one finds in the WNY politico-developer alliance.

Also on the ballot today are the special election for Sam Hoyt’s old seat, and the Democratic primaries for City Court and Common Council. Niagara Falls and Lackawanna also have primaries for Mayor.

 

Random Thought

8 Oct

Do you think the popular image and reputation of Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, and Lackawanna would be different if they were instead named Appleton, Swiftwater and Limestone Hill?

NT Erie Canal

Does the name of the town equal its destiny & brand? Do you think more people would want to move to an address in a trendy-named town, rather than a respectful but funny sounding (to modern ears) Seneca name? Is it a coincidence that Buffalo’s (funny name itself) fastest growing suburbs are named Amherst and Clarence? Just sayin’.

Cheney Wanted Tanks in Lackawanna

25 Jul

Remember the Lackawanna Six?

They’ll be out of jail sooner rather than later, and some of them will end up in the witness protection program for testimony they gave at military commissions in Guantanamo.

But the New York Times reports today that the Bush Administration – specifically former Vice President Dick Cheney – agitated for the government to send the US military to apprehend the suspects and declare them enemy combatants.

Tanks rolling down the streets of Lackawanna.  Troops marching down Ridge Road – not National Guard, but the actual full-time Army.  That would have been quite a sight.  A sight not seen on American soil since the Civil War, and probably violative of the 4th Amendment and the Posse Comitatus Act.

Still, at least one high-level meeting was convened to debate the issue, at which several top Bush aides argued firmly against the proposal to use the military, advanced by Mr. Cheney, his legal adviser David S. Addington and some senior Defense Department officials.

Among those in opposition were Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser; John B. Bellinger III, the top lawyer at the National Security Council; Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

“Frankly, it was a bit of a turf war,” said one former senior administration official. “For a number of people, crossing the line of having intelligence or military activities inside the United States was not worth the risk.”

The cooler head of George W. Bush prevailed over Dick Cheney in that instance.

They were arrested in September 2002, just before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and people’s memories were still vivid and emotions very raw about jihadist terrorism at the time.  I’d go so far as to say that a majority of Americans probably wouldn’t have had a problem with any of this at the time.

But there are a few things I think have happened since that time.  I wouldn’t call it complacency, although some would.  Speaking for myself, living in fear of a terrorist attack hurting me or my family is something I don’t really feel like doing.  If something bad happens, it happens.  But I won’t let it overtake my thoughts or my actions.

Living in fear is a sucky way to live, and it sometimes makes you think and do dumb things.

In addition, I think that the military, law enforcement, and intelligence services have adjusted for this new world in which we live.  I wonder if in the era of the internet we still have spies doing dead drops in obscure Washington Parks or meeting in public places, greeting each other with code phrases.  It was a shift from cold-war era intelligence-gathering to contemporary counter-terrorism intelligence, a lot of which is done online.

But using the military against American citizens on American soil would have been going too far.  Kudos to Bush and those who agreed with him for killing this horribly misguided idea.  But it speaks volumes of Dick Cheney and his vision of a jackbooted America where fear trumps the Constitution and any civil rights violation is acceptable so long as it’s couched in the rhetoric of national security.