2013-03-27 / Features

Van Bramer Salutes Women’s History Month

BY THOMAS COGAN


Councilmember Van Bramer was joined by honorees (top row, l. to r.); Lenore Friedlaender, Kim Teixeira, (bottom row 1. to r.); Meridith Maskara, Margaret Barnes, Sheila Lewandowski and Diane Ballek, who accepted the award in Assemblymember Cathy Nolan’s absence. Councilmember Van Bramer was joined by honorees (top row, l. to r.); Lenore Friedlaender, Kim Teixeira, (bottom row 1. to r.); Meridith Maskara, Margaret Barnes, Sheila Lewandowski and Diane Ballek, who accepted the award in Assemblymember Cathy Nolan’s absence. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer held his second annual Women’s History Month awards ceremony in his Sunnyside office, 47-01 Queens Blvd. last Saturday, presenting seven framed proclamations to women with records of service to the community. Two of the women were absent, one because of duties that kept her away, the other because of a funeral that had to be attended. The honorees were Margaret Barnes, Lenore Friedlaender, Sheila Lewandowski, Rita Manton, Meredith Maskara, Assemblymember Cathy Nolan and Kim Teixeira.

Margaret Barnes has spent many years as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and helps run the Queensbridge Senior Center. She’s also a member of the Senior Shakers dance group at Queensbridge.

Friedlaender is a vice president and assistant to the president of SEIU 32 BJ, the Service Employees International Union. Van Bramer introduced her by saying that women in senior positions in organized labor are few, but she is depended on to fight for union labor construction in the city and for what the councilmember called the dignity of hotel and building workers. In her union, he said, women’s pay is equal to men’s for comparable positions. Friedlaender was joined at her presentation by SEIU 32 BJ President Héctor Figueroa.

Lewandowski is founder of the Chocolate Factory Theatre on 49th Street in Hunters Point and was a member of Queens Council of the Arts when Van Bramer was also a member. In addition, she’s a local activist and member of Community Board 2. In accepting her proclamation, she asserted a strong feminism, recalling her Staten Island childhood when she began to resist some of her elders’ assumptions about women’s place in society. She said that at present she’s hoping for more “women candidates as strong as Jimmy”.

Manton, of Sunnyside Community Services and formerly of Community Board 2, was absent from the ceremony because she had to attend the funeral of her mother-in-law, Diane Manton, widow of U.S. Representative Thomas Manton.

Maskara runs a Girl Scout troop with members from Woodside and Sunnyside. She said that five years from the time she formed the group she’d enlisted 100 members. Van Bramer said he has never seen a more active Girl Scout troop and recalled that in November, in the awful wake of Sandy, Maskara marched 50 of her girls down Queens Boulevard to his office to assemble rescue packages for storm victims in the Rockaways. When she accepted her award she cited several Girl Scout leaders in the room and noted that of all America’s women in elective office, 95 percent had been Girl Scouts.

Nolan was one of the honorees too. Her award was accepted by Diane Ballek, her chief of staff, who said that she had to return to Albany the night before, on urgent legislative business.

Teixeira grew up in the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria, and in accepting her award thanked Van Bramer for the attention he has paid to that apartment complex. She no longer lives there, having moved to Dutch Kills, where she is now a member of the Dutch Kills Civic Association. She is also a member of the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). In addition to thanking the councilmember, she thanked Jerry Walsh, retired president of DKCA (and in attendance) for the encouragement he has given her.

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