Shulman served in the post from 1986 to 2002. She previously served as deputy borough president under Donald Manes.
She was succeeded by the late Helen Marshall, followed by Melinda Katz, the current Queens district attorney. In a statement, Katz, who worked for Shulman at Borough Hall, said she is extremely saddened to hear about her passing.
“She was a trailblazer,” she said. “A fierce leader who dedicated her life to bettering the lives of all Queens residents and paved the way for women leaders in the borough.
“I was honored to follow in her footsteps as Queens borough president and owe her a great debt of gratitude for her amazing leadership and profound dedication to public service,” Katz added. “Claire was absolutely pivotal to the vibrancy and prosperity of Queens County that we continue to enjoy today.”
Following her political career, Shulman remained active in the borough, most prominently as the president and CEO of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation.
She was a familiar face at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, groundbreakings and other events across Queens, such as the unveiling of the restored Women’s Plaza at Borough Hall in 2017.
Earlier this year, she waded into the Queens borough president’s race by endorsing Councilman Donovan Richards, who would later win the Democratic nomination in June.
Acting Borough President Sharon Lee said in a statement that Shulman was “larger than life.”
“She did not waste time and lived every single minute fully and with purpose,” she said. “In a borough known for its trailblazers, few have led a life of dedicated public service as robust and effective as Claire Shulman.”
Lee noted that Shulman was “unexpectedly thrust” into the role of the borough president, but she shepherded the borough for 16 years with “grace, humility and an unrivaled determination to build a better borough for the families who call it home.”
Her office will plan a special tribute to Shulman to honor her life and legacy in the coming days.
“I will personally miss her counsel and steady voice of reason, especially this year,” Lee said. “No one loved Queens more than Claire Shulman, and in turn she was widely respected and deeply loved.”
Lawmakers paid tribute to Shulman and her imprint on the borough on social media. Councilman Daniel Dromm tweeted that the former borough president was a champion for Queens and the LGBTQ community
“She was a beautiful person,” he wrote. “I am deeply saddened to learn of her passing.”
Councilman Barry Grodenchik said he considered her a mentor and “the greatest public official of her time.” Councilman Peter Koo wrote on Twitter that she was a “tireless champion for Queens and someone who truly believed in our people and our future.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng said that the last thing Shulman told her was, “I want to thank you for your excellent work in Washington and tell you how proud I am of you.” Meng said she will always hold onto those words.
“She always believed in me, encouraged me and set high standards that I strove to achieve,” she said.
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that he will personally miss seeing Shulman at his organization’s events. He said she remained a tireless advocate for Queens businesses long after leaving public office.
“When you look around Queens and see the revitalization of neighborhoods like Jamaica, LOng Island City and Flushing, you see the product of Claire’s hard work and vision,” Grech said. “She was a Queens legend who has shaped our borough for generations to come.”