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Queens Women’s Center fights eviction in court

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The battle of Building #401 took another twist this week with the Queens Women’s Center winning an additional month’s stay in its longtime Fort Totten headquarters after the city’s so-called final Feb. 28 eviction deadline came and went.

Women’s center founder Ann Jawin said Monday the group, which has been based in Fort Totten’s Building #401 since October 1997, has filed court papers asking for an injunction against the city’s eviction notices. Jawin said the Queens Women’s Center now has until March 27 to respond to the city in court.

Fort Totten in Bayside was slated to be taken over from the federal government by the city Fire Department in January. The Fire Department said the Queens Women’s Center must leave its building for the transfer to be completed and issued the group an original Dec. 13 eviction notice.

The group has gotten a reprieve three times in its battle with the city over giving up its building at the fort.

A lawyer for the Queens Women’s Center, Sol Kodsi, said Tuesday the group filed an Article 78 in State Supreme Court in Jamaica, a procedure which challenges the government’s decision to evict the group as well as asking for a temporary injunction to stop the eviction until the matter can be settled in court.

Kodsi said the city had filed eviction notices in court last week and was in the process of serving the Queens Women’s Center with the papers when the group brought its own case asking for an injunction.

“We sort of pre-empted them,” Kodsi said of the city. “They were going full force.”

The city’s legal arm, the Corporation Counsel, had not returned a call for comment as of press time Tuesday.

Jawin has criticized the city and the Fire Department as unwilling to negotiate and unconcerned about the fate of the 100 to 150 women a week her group serves.

The Fire Department has said Jawin was informed of the eventual eviction when she first took over the space in 1997.

The Queens Women’s Center was founded in 1987 and provides a range of services to women and families, including job training, domestic violence programs, counseling, funding and training for women who want to start their own business, among other things.

Though the Queens Women’s Center also has space at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Jawin has said the group cannot duplicate its Fort Totten programs there because of a lack of space.

Fort Totten, decommissioned by the U.S. Army in 1995, was to be taken over by the city last month and split between the Fire and Parks departments. Several nonprofits occupy buildings at the Civil War-era fort, but only the Queens Women’s Center has received an eviction notice.

The Totten property was expected to be maintained by the Fire Department, but its buildings were to be split between the Fire and Parks departments.

Kodsi said the Queens Women’s Center was also challenging in court the city’s method of zoning the buildings at the fort between the two departments.

The Queens Women’s Center, one of four nonprofit groups, is the only one assigned to the FDNY. The Bayside Historical Society and the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association have leases directly with the U.S. Army, while the Professional Design Center, an architects group, is in a Parks Department building and does not have to vacate.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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