The Queens Women’s Center received a $30,000 grant from the city last week to renovate its new Fort Totten home, which needs extensive work before the center can move in.
The check was presented to QWC’s founder and chairwoman Ann Jawin on the steps of Queens Borough Hall last Thursday by City Councilmembers David Weprin and Helen Sears.
The QWC has been relegated to using one room in Borough Hall since June 15th, after being forced out of its old Fort Totten home by the New York Fire Department under federal guidelines. As part of the eviction, a compromise was worked out with the Parks Department that gave the center use of Building 207 at Fort Totten.
However, the former bachelor officer’s residence is a dilapidated building that needs an estimated $500,000 in renovation before it can be used. Since the compromise was brokered, lawyers for both sides have been in discussions over the details and Jawin received a lengthy copy of the agreement last week from the Parks Department, which she had yet to read.
The QWC, which admits it has little money to cover the costs of refurbishing, hopes to reach its financial goals through dinners and other fundraising efforts. Weprin, who serves as the chairman of the city’s Finance Committee, led the efforts to get $30,000 designated for the center.
“Despite the very tight fiscal times, we were able to designate $30,000 in the city’s budget,” Weprin said. “The Queens Women’s Center is going through a transition and every little bit of money helps.”
Weprin believes it is important for the center to have a home at Fort Totten, instead of using an office at Borough Hall.
“A number of their programs are geared toward helping battered women, or women who are coming out of abusive relationships, and a lot of these women do not feel comfortable in such a public place,” he said. “They need to have the ability to feel like they are safe, and are in a warm, friendly family environment.”
The QWC is the city’s only full-service women’s organization. The center offers counseling, computer classes, support groups and other services to about 150 women a week.
“A need for this center is essential because it provides a complete global training center for women,” Sears said. “They provide the emotional support and technical training needed by women who have been out of the work environment for so long and are re-entering it.”
The center actually started out at a small office in Queens Borough Hall in 1987, before moving to the former Army base in Bayside. With its return 15 years later, the QWC has had to temporarily abandon many of its services, especially anything that is confidential, and is now serving mainly as an information center.
“We felt pretty crushed when the situation came and there was no consideration for us to stay in our building,” Jawin said. “But sometimes bad clouds bring good tidings.”
Building 207 is located on Totten Avenue, next door to the Bayside Historical Society’s headquarters. The historical society actually expressed its desire to turn the building into a bed and breakfast during Fort Totten Redevelopment Authority meetings in the late 1990s.
According to a 1996 report, the BHS noted that the 1905 brick building consists of 10 apartment-style units. At that time it was considered too dangerous because of its condition.