To avoid Totten eviction, Jawin prepares for court

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With a Jan. 15 eviction deadline from the city well behind them, Ann Jawin and her Queens Women’s Center remained in their Fort Totten headquarters this week and the Douglaston resident said she was ready to go to court to keep it that way, if necessary.

Jawin, the founder of the Queens Women’s Center, reaffirmed this week that she would resort to legal action to fight the eviction if she could not work out a deal with the city.

The group has been battling the eviction from Totten since last fall, when the Queens Women’s Center got an original eviction notice from the city Fire Department ordering the organization to leave Building #401 by Dec. 13. The deadline was postponed by a month after the women’s group retained a lawyer.

The city Fire and Parks departments were in the process this month of taking control of Bayside’s Fort Totten, which was decommissioned by the U.S. Army in 1995. A Fire Department spokesman told the TimesLedger last week all buildings must be vacated before the property transfer can occur.

The Fire Department could not be reached for comment as of press time Tuesday.

Last week Jawin and the rest of the Queens Women’s Center staff — who have refused to vacate the building they have used since 1997 — waited to see what action the Fire Department would take against them.

“They decided not to bar the door,” Jawin said this week. “I feel very strongly that a lot of inequity is being practiced here.”

The Fire Department and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who oversaw the development of the Fort Totten reuse plan in the late 1990s, denied any inequity regarding the Queens Women’s Center.

They said Jawin was informed in advance about the impending eviction when she chose in 1997 to occupy a future Fire Department building. Other nonprofits at Totten have been using space slated to go to the Parks Department and are in the process of applying for permanent occupancy.

The Fire Department was planning to use the Queens Women’s Center building for administration and classroom space, a department spokesman said. The building will be part of the department’s educational campus, which will be based at Totten once the city takes over the land.

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.

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

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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