Shulman may have been the first female Queens borough president, but she set the tone of the office for the nearly two decades following her departure. She was succeeded by the late Helen Marshall, and next by now-Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Upon ending her career in politics, Shulman continued to be active in Queens affairs. She established the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods in northern Queens, and acted as its president and CEO.
Shulman also served on the board of directors of both New York Hospital Queens and St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. She also helped the Queens Zoo obtain its first bald eagle. In return, the zoo named its current bald eagles after Shulman and her husband. Most recently, Shulman influenced this year’s race for her former office, endorsing Councilman Donovan Richards in a special election for Queens borough president. Richards later won the Democratic nomination.
“I lost a good friend last night,” Richards tweeted the morning after Shulman’s passing. “Queens lost a true gem last night. Claire Schulman was one of a kind. Her commitment to building institutions and fostering opportunities for people from all walks of life in Queens can’t be overstated.”
Shulman’s is survived by her sister Ruth; daughter Ellen Shulman Baker, a physician and retired astronaut who was a veteran of three Space Shuttle flights; son Lawrence, an oncologist and chief medical officer at Boston’s Dana–Farber Cancer Institute; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her husband, Dr. Melvin Shulman, a psychiatrist whom she met while working at Queens Hospital Center as a nurse, died in 2015.
Their adopted son Kim, a film and television director, died in 2001 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
In a statement, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee referred to Shulman as “larger than life.” “She did not waste time, and lived every single minute fully and with purpose,” said Lee. “In a borough known for its trailblazers, few have led a life of dedicated public service as robust and as effective as Claire Shulman. She transformed the landscape of the city’s largest borough, and so much of what we see and enjoy today are the results of her extraordinary vision and decisions made over 18 years ago.
“No one loved Queens more than Claire Shulman,” she went on, “and in turn, she was widely respected and deeply loved.”