Preservationists, Residents Push to Save Bethlehem Building

May 20, 2012 Updated May 20, 2012 at 11:29 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

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May 20, 2012 Updated May 20, 2012 at 11:29 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - The fight is on to try and save the more than 100 year-old structure that used to serve as the administrative building for Bethlehem Steel.

The structure is a mainstay at the foot of Ridge Road, and in its hey-day, overlooked about 15,000 workers each day as they entered the gates to work at the mill.

The building, owned by Gateway Trade, has sat dormant and decaying for about 30 years, and City of Lackawanna officials have ordered the demolition of the structure, which is set to begin Monday morning.

"It simply poses no threat whatsoever to the public," says Tim Tielman from Campaign for Greater Buffalo, who is arguing to preserve the historic building.

And preservationists aren't the only ones riled up over the decision. Neighborhood residents feel connected to the building and its history, and are disappointed at the decision to tear it down.

My dad worked there. I had other relatives who worked there, but I'm originally from Lackawanna so, just about everybody from Lackawanna had some connection with this business," explained Carl Wodzinski, who stopped by to admire the building for what could be the last time.

"When I heard it was going to be torn down I was just sick about it, and I wanted to bring my daughter down to see the building and get some last photos of it. I really hope they can find some way to save it," says Eileen Heally, who rode her bicycle down to the waterfront with her daughter Sarah.

One major issue for those trying to save the building is that local preservation laws end at the City of Buffalo line, literally just feet from where the structure sits, making it difficult to stop the demolition process.

"Without landmark protection, without a preservation ordinance, it's going to continue happening," explained Tielman.

He is now urging residents to lobby their city council members to get a landmark ordinance on the books in Lackawanna, which he says will also bring attention and possibly dollars to historic landmarks in the city.

A handful of preservationists are holding an all night vigil at the building Sunday night, saying they plan to appeal to Gateway Trade officials and city lawmakers, hoping to convince them to find a new use for building.