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Queens Women’s Center to honor Ground Zero heroes

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The Queens Women’s Center is facing some difficult days ahead as the nonprofit moves out of its longtime Fort Totten headquarters and attempts to raise $475,000 to renovate a dilapidated building at the Bayside fort, but the bleak future has not kept the group from its work.

On Friday, June 14, one day before the group expected to be completely evicted from its home, the Queens Women’s Center was scheduled to host a 15th Anniversary Dinner at Crowne Plaza Hotel at LaGuardia Airport, honoring the “Women from Ground Zero,” founder Ann Jawin said Monday.

The women’s center will host the fund-raising anniversary dinner despite the fact that the group, which serves between 100 and 150 women a week, must vacate its city Fire Department-controlled Totten building to make way for a city takeover of the former U.S. Army base, Jawin said.

With all the attention drawn by firemen, policemen and other emergency workers at the site of the World Trade Center attacks, Jawin said people “are just not aware what the women have been doing all this time” at Ground Zero.

Among those slated to be recognized include Officer Moira Smith of Queens Village, one of 23 police officers killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and the only woman in that group.

Deputy Inspector Kathleen Kearns of the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills also is among the honorees, who include firefighters, emergency medical technicians, electrical workers, iron workers, transport workers and members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Somehow they just never got the credit,” said Jawin, of Douglaston. “We’re here and we’re going to try to do it.”

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall was scheduled to attend and several community groups, including the Queens Women’s Bar Association, the Queens Health Network and the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, were to be recognized.

In between planning for the dinner and packing up the nonprofit’s belongings, Jawin said she has been scrambling to find space for storage, as well as the group’s programs. The women’s center offers everything from job training and cooking classes to support groups for domestic violence.

“We had to suspend a bunch of programs,” she said. “We’re very concerned about the support groups. We’re just trying to see what we can do.”

The U.S. Army decommissioned the Civil War-era Fort Totten in 1995, and the property was due to become city parkland.

The city was to take control of Fort Totten from the federal government earlier this year, a move city authorities contend was delayed by the Queens Women’s Center’s refusal to vacate its Fire Department-controlled building.

After a seven-month eviction battle with the city, Jawin’s group earned a partial victory in State Supreme Court last month when Judge Duane Hart helped broker a deal to keep the nonprofit at the fort.

The Queens Women’s Center occupies Building #401 and was offered a different building, which sits on the Parks side of the fort. However, the women’s center needs to raise $475,000 to renovate Building #207 before occupying it.

State Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside) has pledged $200,000 to help the group, and state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) has voiced support.

Jawin said there has been no discussion of the Queens Women’s Center’s being reimbursed for the thousands of dollars it invested to repair Building #401. Building #207, which is next to the Bayside Historical Society, needs a lot of work, Jawin said.

“It’s in terrible condition,” said Jawin, who added that there were holes in the roof, broken plaster and dead animals inside the building. “We had to walk around with flashlights.”

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

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