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Forest Hills comes out to pay homage to Geraldine Ferraro

TimesLedger Newspapers

For 37 years Geraldine Ferraro passed through the intersection of Ascan Avenue and Austin Street on her way to and from her Forest Hills Gardens home and the community gathered there Sunday to ensure that her legacy lived on for another 37 years and beyond.

“Forest Hills was the happiest time of her life and this is the hub of Forest Hills,” Ferraro’s daughter, Donna Zaccaro Ullman, said at a ceremony co-naming Ascan Avenue after the trailblazer.

Ferraro’s son, John Zaccaro Jr., said his grandmother finished school after the seventh-grade and had the foresight to realize that a strong education would be a leveling factor for her daughter.

After graduating from Marymount College, Ferraro became a Queens school teacher.

When she graduated from Fordham Law, she was one of only three women in her graduating class. Today, women make up about 50 percent of the nation’s law school graduates.

From there she went on to become an assistant district attorney in the Queens DA’s office, where she created a special victims bureau.

In 1978, she was elected to Congress, where she sponsored the Women’s Economic Equality Act and created a flex-time program for public employees.

In 1993, she was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by then-President Bill Clinton.

Her most prominent achievement came in 1984, when she became the first female U.S. vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket when Democratic candidate Walter Mondale selected her as his running mate.

“I remember when she was nominated for the vice presidency, when she came home to her home in Forest Hills Gardens ... how proud we all were of Geraldine Ferraro,” said City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who requested the street renaming.

“Her accomplishments were great and her fighting spirit was unbreakable,” she added. “While she was a national figure, here in Queens we knew Congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro as Gerry, our friend and colleague.”

Koslowitz said the street renaming was unanimously approved by the City Council.

“There was absolutely no question,” she said.

“This is a great honor and my wife would have loved to have this street renamed after her,” John Zaccaro said. “Our lives were here. We shopped here. This was our main block.”

Ferraro’s family was joined by a number of elected officials, both men and women, who said they owed a debt of gratitude to one of the borough’s most famous daughters.

“She lifted up every woman in this country with her leadership,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria).

“I have to say she was a great inspiration to women,” said City Comptroller John Liu, “but she was an inspiration to us guys, too.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), the first woman from Queens elected to the state Senate, said she looked to Ferraro for inspiration, as did Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who said the congresswoman was a vocal advocate for the gay community “at a time when it wasn’t popular.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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