The Devil Made
Claire Do It!
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
For her entire reign as Queens Borough President, Claire Shulman has
been given courtesies and leeway rarely afforded an elected official. Other elected
officials, the people, the press, this paper, this writer allowed the matriarch of our
Borough the freedom to be wrong without suffering the normal public outcry that comes with
the job. Personal attacks just never existed, even when our beloved borough president
deserved harsh criticism. Somehow, it was always gentle if anything at all.
Trib Publisher Michael Schenkler with his friends Claire Shulman, Terri Thomson
and Carol Gresser at the 1997 Tribune Holiday Party. Shortly after this picture was taken,
Shulman, at the insistance of Rudy Giuliani, condemned Gressers refusal to support
the Mayors choice for Chancellor and appointed Thomson to replace Gresser. Last
week, Shulman called for Thomsons resignation because she refused to back the
Mayors choice for Board of Ed. Prez.
photo: Dee Richard
Im not sure why. Did the borough view Claire as a
grandmotherly figure who was immune from criticism. Was it her commitment to the borough?
Certainly she gave the job her all. However, weve seen many mighty public officials
ripped apart by other officials, the press, the people in spite of their hard work and
dedication remember Bill? Or perhaps the tragic circumstances of her elevation to
the position made us all want harmony.
But Claire has managed, since picking up the pieces of a devastated
Borough Hall in 1986, to remain immune from serious public criticism even when it
I apologize to my readers for giving my friend, Borough President
Claire Shulman, greater latitude and more leeway than this writer believes elected
officials are entitled to. In the past, when we disagreed with Claire, we were gentle . .
. perhaps too gentle. The latitude we all allowed her has enabled her to lose sight of the
purity of principle which enabled her to effectively pick up the Queens fallen mantle 15
Her commitment to the people has at times been replaced by politics and
deals which poisoned her once- seemingly pure purpose. We are saddened. Such is the case
with the Beeps latest misstep calling for the resignation of Queens Board of
Education Member Terri Thomson.
Although clearly Shulman is at fault for selling out politically, the
force that drove her to it was merciless and vulgar. His name Rudolph Giuliani.
Giuliani is a fine mayor who has served the city well. Giuliani is a
ruthless politician who resorts to the vilest of threats and tactics in order to get his
way. He will trample and attempt to publicly disgrace and destroy those who disagree.
Sadly, Claire has learned from him.
The mayor who has improved the quality of life in this city has
brutally stifled dissention. And Claire who has likewise improved the quality of life in
our borough, is no less merciless in the face of differing opinion.
Their performance in office doesnt give them either of
them the right to attack the fine principled voice and integrity of Queens Board of
Education Member Terri Thomson or to attempt bring down a Board of Education for the
mayors own purposes.
Our City Charter sets up an "independent" Board of Education
something our Mayor cannot tolerate. Sadly, he has coaxed, threatened and/or
bullied Claire Shulman into choosing his autocratic, undemocratic path of action over the
interests of the children of New York City.
He has done so for the second time.
In 1998, Carol Gresser, then Queens Board of Education member, stood up
and opposed the mayors choice for chancellor. The facts clearly proved Gresser was
right and the mayor was wrong. But that didnt matter to Rudy or to Claire. He
demanded Gressers head and Claire handed it to him. Shulman has unjustly been
attempting to make Gresser, her former friend, pay the price ever since she opposed Rudy.
Although not the subject of this column, allow this writer a quick
aside to apologize to our friend Carol Gresser. Although we lauded your fine service to
the people of Queens, we failed to tell the story of an out-of-control mayor and our
borough president who blindly followed his vulgar lead at the expense of the citys
We cant let it happen again.
Terri Thomson shes also a dear friend is what Board
of Education members should be. Shes thoughtful, principled and has the integrity of
a saint. Terri did the right thing in opposing the mayors choice for board president
we have no doubt about that. Claire did the wrong thing in not supporting her
boroughs "independent" board member. Claire has violated her obligation to
the kids of our borough and our city when she calls for Terris resignation.
Terri, do not resign. We are with you. The people are with you. The
children need you.
Claire withdraw your demand for Terris resignation and allow our
borough to heal. Turning your back on fine public servants who were once your friend, who
have served the borough well, who have worked for the best interest of the children of the
city, in order to politically deal with the Mayor is not a credit to you or our borough.
Doing business with the devil will get you burned.
Claire, youre better than that.
Campaigning At Public Expense
Okay, Ive had it. Friend or no friend, I cant sit by and
watch a candidate for City Council utilize city funds and facilities for his own political
Several months ago we criticized press releases from the office of our
friend Councilman Morton Povman pushing the Council candidacy of his chief of staff Jeff
Gottlieb (Not 4 Publication Dec. 7,2000). Those releases contained pictures of
Gottlieb and applauded Gottliebs work. The people of the city paid for the postage,
releases, envelope and staff that mailed them.
Subsequently, we spoke to Povman who acknowledged that it was wrong and
promised it would not continue. We met with Gottlieb who acknowledged wrongdoing and
promised it would not happen again.
Well Gottlieb has moved out of the wrongdoing area into an area that is
gray dark gray. Six releases arrived from Councilman Povmans office last week
with six photos. Not one had a picture of Councilman Povman. Each identified
Gottlieb as Councilman Povmans chief of staff and contained a photo of Gottlieb
performing some community activity.
No, Jeff and Morty, this is probably not illegal. But it stinks!
But bad turned to worse, when I had the chance to review a tape of the
NY1 interviews with the five candidates for the 24th Councilmanic seat. I was in Florida
when the original show aired.
It is clear from the seal of the City of New York which appeared on the
office door in which Gottlieb conducted his interview, that he was inside the Council
office. Hey Jeff, thats city property and not for campaign use. Neither are the
stamps, the staff, the desk or anything belonging to the Council. Its the property
of the people. Keep your political self-serving hands off!
Three of the four other candidates work for the City of New York, the
other, for the State of NY. None of them used a government office to meet with NY1
reporter Kerri Lyons.
Weve been to Barry Grodenchiks Borough Hall office but know
hed never use it for his political advantage. Likewise, Jim Gennaro, Morshed Alam
and David Reich knew not to violate the public trust.
As far as Gottlieb is concerned, Im appalled.
Hes either arrogant or stupid.
Queen Catherine of Braganza
Politics And The Arts
The misadventures of the beleaguered statue of Queen Catherine of
Braganza took another bizarre turn last week.
The homeless 35-foot statue of the Queen for whom our borough is named
was originally commissioned by the Friends of Queen Catherine to be erected in Long Island
City overlooking the East River.
Manuel de Sousa headed the decade-long cooperative effort, funded
largely by the people of Portugal, birthplace of Catherine who became the Queen of
Beep Claire Shulman secured the plot of land from the Port Authority,
and Long Island artist Audrey Flack won a design contest and was selected in 1995 to
sculpt the Queen. Tallix Inc. was retained as the foundry to fabricate progressive bronze
casts of the Flack sculpture and to make the final bronze full-scale monument.
Other than some grumbling as to the artistic beauty of the sculpture
it was plain ugly and old fashioned the project went along smoothly until
1998 when some black groups protested the monument observing that Queen Catherines
family had engaged in slave trade.
Under some pressure, eight years and several castings into the project,
Shulman withdrew her support and the offer of the site for the statue to be erected.
Tallix stopped work and the head of the 35-foot Queen was left outside on a scrap heap.
To Queens Council Candidates:
Please email the following to us:
1) Your bio -- under 200 words
2) Your photo -- jpg or tif
3) The three most important issues facing your district and how you
plan to resolve them - under 200 words total.
4) Are you or do you plan to enrol in the CFBs matching fund
program. How much youve raised to date? How much youve spent? How much in
total including matching funds do you plan to spend between now and Primary Day?
5) E-mail and phone contact
Material and questions to: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
before the end of April.
In January of 1999 de Sousa sought completion of the homeless
Queen whose face needed resculpting. One of Flacks assistants, David Simon, was
retained to restore the work and complete the project.
Flack insisted that Simon has distorted and mutilated her version of
Catherine and sued Friends of Queen Catherine and Tallix under the Visual Artists Rights
and Copyright acts.
Last week US District Court Judge Sidney Stein ruled that Flack has the
right to protect her original concept but took no further action since Flack and de Sousa
have put the project on hold again.
Its now a decade since de Sousa and his Friends of Queen
Catherine first made the offer to the people of Queens to erect a statue of the Queen for
whom their borough is named. That offer was accepted and 10 years and $10 million later,
we see the results of politics intruding into the arts indecency!
Mr. de Sousa and the people of Portugal are owed an apology.
The statue deserves a home.
Even ugly art should not be judged politically.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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