CAPTION: Clare Shulman (left) was the first woman to hold the post of Queens borough president.
BY SARA KREVOY
Claire Shulman, who became the first woman to hold the office of Queens borough president in 1986 following a corruption scandal concerning her predecessor, died on August 16 while at her home in Beechurst. She was 94 years old.
A longtime friend of Shulman’s told the New York Times the cause of her passing was lung cancer. Shulman, a survivor of breast cancer, was also battling pancreatic cancer at the time of her death.
Born Claire Kantoff on February 23, 1926, in Brooklyn, Shulman was a graduate of Adelphi University and a registered nurse before beginning a career in politics. After becoming active with the Bayside Mother’s Club, she first ventured into public service in the 1960s, serving on the neighborhood’s community board, of which she was eventually appointed chairwoman.
Over the years, Shulman worked her way up to director of community boards under former Queens Borough President Donald Manes, and subsequently became his deputy in 1980. Manes, who later committed suicide, was implicated in one of the biggest municipal corruption rings in New York City, soliciting bribes in exchange for influence over contracts at the Parking Violations Bureau.
When he resigned in February 1986, Shulman was chosen to finish out the year as interim borough president by a unanimous vote of the City Council’s Queens members. She then proceeded to win both the primary and general election to finish out the remaining three years of Manes’ term.
Shulman achieved victory in three more popular votes, leading the “World’s Borough” for 16 years. As Queens borough president, Shulman was known for her passionate advocacy for issues including economic development, airport disputes and the environment, as well as for championing the borough’s cultural institutions.
Throughout her tenure, she secured funding for construction on Queens Hospital Center, in addition to creating 30,000 school seats for Queens students.
In 1987, Shulman notably mediated a compromise while sitting as a member on the Board of Estimate – which was abolished by the city two years later – when it voted to adopt a rezoning proposal that would spur the construction of middle-income apartments across the five boroughs.
Advocating for her constituent neighborhoods comprised mostly of single-family detached homes, Shulman was able to reach a negotiation that exempted a dozen neighborhoods in Queens that opposed the development plans.
Even in the last year of her tenure as borough president, Shulman fought back against a proposal to build an Olympic Village on land that had been allocated for permanent housing and updating the lakes in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.