Jawin keeps pushing for Ft. Totten

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Phil Corso

The Center for the Women of New York President Ann Jawin has not let up in ongoing efforts to move her group into a building in Fort Totten in Bayside and said she hoped to see bids chosen to renovate part of the facility by the end of the year.

Jawin said she had cleared another hurdle in the long journey back to Fort Totten after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the installation of a barrier-free access ramp at the center’s soon-to-be new home.

Equipped with the nearly $1.5 million necessary to fund the first stage of renovations, including sanitizing and removing asbestos from the first floor of the building, at 207 Fort Totten Ave., Jawin said she hoped to see more progress after nearly a decade of negotiating with the city.

“This should have happened years ago,” Jawin said. “But I’m just looking forward. Everything is progressing one little bit at a time.”

The center, currently based out of Queens Borough Hall, provides services and programs for women, including job workshops, support groups, legal assistance and career counseling.

The Kew Gardens-based center has been working to move back into Fort Totten after it was forced out of the area in 2002 to make room for a city Fire Department facility. The city Parks Department has listed the entire renovation cost at $3.5 million for the center to pay.

Jawin said she hoped to move into the first floor of the 117-year-old, city-owned building first before making renovations to its basement and second and third floors.

“There are only enough funds to complete the first floor for now,” Jawin said. “Then, I will be able to move into that floor and have certain operations.”

Jawin met with the city Department of Design and Construction in 2010 along with supportive City Council members Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) to move the project forward. A spokesman for the DDC said though there was a slight delay due to the center’s failure to comply with certain terms of the license agreement initially entered with the city Parks Department. The city was working with the group to expedite the process.

According to Jawin, the center will continue raising money to reach its $3.5 million goal through various events in the coming months. The nonprofit hosted a 25th anniversary luncheon in April and will sponsor its fourth annual walkathon Sept. 22 in Fort Totten. An all-day women’s job conference is also in the works, scheduled for Oct. 26.

The center also received some money through its first several years of planning from area politicians, including $900,000 from state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), $200,000 from Borough President Helen Marshall and $600,000 from former Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza.

“This year we are having a big problem receiving money from our elected officials,” Jawin said. “Some Assembly members and senators did not get their usual discretionary funds and last year we received very little because the city was in a difficult position.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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