Work begins at women’s building 1

Center for the Women of New York Chairwoman Ann Jawin with William and Michael St. John, left, and Gus Carrera, architect, after a tree was partially removed to make way for handicapped accessibility at the group’s new headquarters in a 1905 building at Fort Totten in Bayside.

After years of planning, waiting and fundraising, the Center for the Women of New York is finally getting a new home, even if it won’t be partially finished for more than a year.

The group’s founder and now its chairwoman Ann Jawin reports that work has finally begun on its building at Fort Totten in Bayside.

The center was founded in 1987 and now operates out of offices at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, offering abuse prevention, training and education for women.

In December 2007, after four years of heated negotiations, the Parks Department agreed to allow the CWNY to use the former bachelor officers’ residence, which is in a landmarked historic district at Fort Totten, now a city park.

The brick structure was built in 1905 and is located next to the Bayside Historical Society headquarters.

The interior contains 10 apartment-style units and the entire building is in serious need of repair. The front porch is collapsing and the interior is without electricity, running water or heat.

Six years after city approval was granted to the CWNY, members are still waiting for change. First, there was a question of proper use of the building, followed by years of bureaucratic delays.

Meanwhile, the women’s group has secured $1.8 million in public funds that will go toward gutting the inside of the building, removing the asbestos, putting in new windows and a roof, replacing the rotting wooden porch and adding electricity, running water and heat.

The initial work will allow the CWNY to move into the first floor. Additional funding is needed to finish the second floor, at an estimated cost of an additional $1.2 million.

The group’s planned headquarters will be used as a conference, resource and learning center. There will be an area devoted to women’s history, workshops, classes and other programs on health.

Last fall, the renovation project began with an initial cleaning of the building so the architects could get in to complete their work. Jawin noted that over the years animals had gotten in and the building was generally a mess. “But once it was cleaned up, it doesn’t look bad,” she said. “There are fireplaces, high ceilings and nice floors.”

Recently, a tree was removed to allow for the addition of a handicapped-accessible entrance.

Jawin said that she is meeting with the architects in March and then the project will go out for bidding. She expects that to take six months followed by another six months of work.

“I feel it will happen this time,” Jawin added. “I hope we will be in by March 2015.”

She noted that fundraising is continuing for the second phase of work to remodel the upper floor and added that her group had received a $100,000 donation for the project from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, LI.

The CWNY’s purpose is to “empower and improve women’s lives and give them the opportunity to achieve economic independence and develop their full potential in the marketplace and society,” Jawin said.

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