PHOTO: DOMINICK TOTINO
BY BENJAMIN FANG
Tom Santucci, chairman of the Queens Chamber’s Board of Directors, had lunch with Claire Shulman six months before she passed away. Santucci, who is also president and CEO of Gateway Investments, picked Shulman up at her home and went to a nearby restaurant.
After they sat down, he recalled that several customers came by to greet the former borough president. During their meal, they spoke about the recent primary election and other issues in the borough.
“She was a vibrant 94 years old,” Santucci said. “She was sharp as can be.”
When he heard about Shulman’s passing last month, Santucci said he was saddened by the news. She had been a friend of his family for several decades. Santucci is a former district leader, and his father, John Santucci, served as a state senator and Queens district attorney. Reflecting on Shulman’s legacy, Santucci called the former borough president an accessible and pragmatic politician.
“Her heart and soul was always in the community and what she could do better for Queens,” he said. “It’s rare that I went to a Queens event where she wasn’t there.
“She steered us in a great direction,” Santucci added. “She helped make Queens what it is today.”
The Queens Chamber chairman said Shulman was a “terrific mentor and colleague” who had a lasting impact on the borough. “I feel as though I’ve lost a dear friend,” he said. “I truly enjoyed being with her every time.”
Howard Graf, a member of the Queens Chamber board, also felt a sense of loss after Shulman passed away. “We just lost an incredibly smart, gifted person who has always had Queens in her first thoughts,” he said.
Graf, an architect, served as president of the board at the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts when Shulman was borough president. She helped arrange for the organization to move into Flushing Town Hall, as well as allocating $7 million to renovate the decrepit Northern Boulevard building, Graf said.
He met with Shulman several times a year to provide updates on the project. Graf said the former borough president provided constant feedback and always knew how to solve problems.
“The amazing thing about Claire always was, if I thought there was an issue, she always understood within 30 seconds all the complications and involvements,” Graf said. “She was quick, understood how to solve problems and work with people.
“She never wasted time,” he added. “She was a delight.”