A private association founded by former Ward 6 council member Nadine P. Winter has canceled its dollar-a-year lease on a District-owned building after protests over the terms.

However, Winter, who had been using part of the building as a constituent services office, said yesterday she would not move out even if the association has ended the lease.

"I have squatters rights," she said. "I believe I am the only person to have keys for 25 years. As far as I am concerned, I am still in the building."

Winter said she would leave only if the District government evicted her. She said her self-assigned work is to help poor people in the community.

"They ought to let me do what I do as long as I am willing to do it," she said.

The Business Organized to Help Inc., a nonprofit business association founded by Winter, had signed the five-year lease on the former firehouse in Northeast Washington late last month. Winter, who is not an association board member, had said she would run the association office as a volunteer.

But protests from the newly elected Ward 6 council member, Harold Brazil (D), and some community residents concerned over the terms of the lease led officials of the association to change their minds.

"We are sorry for any ill will this may have caused," said association President Carolena Key, who is also the chairwoman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

"We do not want to be in that building if there is community opposition," she said.

A spokesman for Brazil said yesterday the council member was leaving an investigation into the legality of the lease up to the Departments of Public Works and Administrative Services.

Last week he had called the lease "poppycock" and "improper." He said he wanted space in the building because "it goes with the {elected} office."

Key said the association would find another location for its activities, which include staging an annual benefit fashion show and holding grooming classes for small children.

Last week, Winter said the organization got a lease so that it could be responsible for maintaining the former firehouse, at 1341 Maryland Ave. NE, and for scheduling events there.

The lease on the building, which is assessed at $200,000, was signed by association Vice President Edith Cromwell and Department of Administrative Services Director Raymond A. Lambert on Dec. 20. Before that, no one held a lease on the building, which was used jointly by the Department of Public Works, several neighborhood associations and Winter.