Photo courtesy Cathy Nolan
By Bianca Fortis

Civic leaders from around Queens and beyond gathered in Ridgewood Tuesday to name the campus of a new public school after the late congresswoman and activist Geraldine Ferraro.

The five-story school, still under construction, will serve 616 students from pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade. It will be open for the 2014 school year.

The Geraldine A. Ferraro Campus, at 55-20 Metropolitan Ave., will house the A.C.E. Academy for Scholars, formerly PS 290.

Ferraro, a longtime Forest Hills resident, was the first woman to run in a major party for vice president of the United States. She ran alongside Walter Mondale on the Democratic ticket in 1984.

State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), chairwoman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Education, said the campus name was fitting because Ferraro had a tremendous commitment to personal excellence.

“She did it all, and she always did it looking great — looking fantastic — and with a tremendous sense of humor and a great warmth, a great love of the community,” she said at the ceremony, which took place in front of the new campus. “We talk about women moving forward in government. It took people like Gerry Ferraro to make risks, to try to move forward for women.”

After graduating from college, Ferraro worked as a public school teacher in Queens. She later went to law school at Fordham University and then served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dennis Walcott, the city schools chancellor, said the opening of the school marks a historical point for the community.

Ferraro’s name will be a signal to the community as well as the generations of students who attend the school of what Ferraro did and how she did it, Walcott said.

Walcott said the city Department of Education pledges to continue building schools to help ease the overcrowding that burdens the city’s public school system. District 24, which also covers Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale, is the most overcrowded in the city.

Leaders from around the city, most of whom were women, shared stories of times Ferraro had touched them personally and spoke of how she inspired their political careers.

“We would not have had the opportunity to have the positions we have, to run for the offices we’ve run for and to accomplish the things we’ve accomplished if it wasn’t for what Gerry Ferraro did,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood) also called Ferraro an inspiration.

“Geraldine was so committed to education, for advocating for the most vulnerable citizens in our society,” she said. “And she did it with grace, with intellect and with compassion. I believe that the best way we honor her legacy and her bravery is by being committed to fight for what we could do best for our children, the future of our country.”

Ferraro died in 2011 as a result of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.

Her family, including her husband John Zaccaro, were present at the ceremony as well.

Zaccaro said she would have been thrilled by the campus naming.

“Gerry recognized the importance of education because she knew that her education was the reason for the successes she achieved during her life,” he said. “It enabled her to rise out of poverty, raised by a single head of household, the child of an immigrant, to reach unimaginable heights, to make history.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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