CB 7 approves women’s center at Ft. Totten

Community Board 7 voted to support refurbishing 207 Totten Ave., whose dilapidated porch needs to be repaired as part of a building-wide overhaul. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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At its monthly meeting Monday night, Community Board 7 threw its support behind renovations to a Fort Totten building set to house the Center for the Women of New York.

The board also discussed renovations to the Bowne House in Flushing, a bocce ball court in Bowne Park and a controversial TimesLedger Newspapers editorial about variances.

The board voted unanimously to support the renovations of the Fort Totten building, a two-story historic building in need of repair, at 207 Totten Ave.

“I was very pleased — and it was unanimous,” said Ann Jawin, founder and chairwoman of the center, which provides cultural programming, including women’s history as well as services that cater to women like legal aid and support groups.

Phase 1 of the renovations will sanitize the entire building and refurbish the porch and first floor for the center to occupy. These actions would take place over a year’s time. The cost of the entire project is projected at $3 million, according to Jawin, who currently has about $1.75 million in city and state funds to cover the first phase.

But the board expressed concern about part of the restoration process. The preservationist instincts of board members like Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian kicked in and he wanted to see all the railings on the porch in tune with the rest of the historical design, while federal guidelines stipulate that any new railings should be distinguishable from the old.

The plan ultimately needs to be approved by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission before any work can be done.

The board also voted to support the construction of a bocce court in Bowne Park, between 29th and 32nd avenues and 155th and 159th streets, but had reservations about the costs and timeline for the project.

The city Parks Department’s plan to add a new bocce court next to the one that already exists is slated to cost $507,000, which initially made board members scoff.

But Parks made it clear that the money will also go toward refurbishing the old court, repaving the plaza around the courts and adding extra amenities, including benches and picnic tables, according to the department.

And in what CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty said could be a potentially costly repair, Parks will add a ground fire hydrant to provide water for both the bocce courts and nearby vegetation.

“If anyone knows plumbing work and hydrants, it’s going to be costly,” he said. “It’s not just for a bocce court. There is other ancillary stuff here.”

Nevertheless, the board wanted to ensure Parks was spending the money wisely and asked the department for a detailed construction plan.

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) also wanted to make sure Parks did not waste any cash, since he partially funded the project.

“An extra bocce court will be a good thing for Bowne Park and I’m proud to have helped provide one,” he said in a statement. “But nothing comes cheap through city government. I’m pressing for Parks to make this happen as affordably as possible.”

The board also approved structural restorations to the Bowne House Historical Society, at 37-01 Bowne St., and discussed an editorial in the Feb. 9-15 edition of TimesLedger Newspapers, contending the board unfairly denied a variance application sought by the Mormon church to build a chapel on 33rd Avenue.

“I was very disappointed with this,” said board member and North Flushing Civic Association President Tyler Cassell. “I read something like this, and the flavor of this reeks of someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood or even understand any of the issues.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:15 am, February 16, 2012
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