In a letter to the Times Ledger long time Queens activist Joyce Shephard demands an investigation into the Claire Shulman masquerade-and in doing so exposes the former BP's M.O., creating phony grass roots groups to front for developers in the name of the community. As she points out (letter isn't online unfortunately) Shulman did this in the effort to develop the Fort Totten area:
"Shulman started the Fort Totten Redevelopment Authority when President Clinton sold the 168 waterfront acres to the city for $1. One of the honest members of the Authority sent me a list to me of the people Shulman appointed to represent the community. Many were developers while others were receiving monies for their non profit organizations from Shulman"
Absent from the roster was, of course, any genuine community leader: "She named the group an authority in order to keep the community it was representing out of the meetings."
This, as the kids might say, is how Shulman rolls: "We the people living around the fort had to protest just to listen to what was being discussed for our community. When we arrived to go into the meeting, Shulman called in 8 policemen in riot gear to stop us from walking down the hallway..."
Shulman inherited the borough president's position when the late Donald Manes killed himself because he couldn't face the federal prosecutors who were digging into his corrupt schemes-and for twelve years she fronted for every developer who wanted to build in Queens even if the community was dead set against it. In 1995 the entire Laurelton neighborhood rose up in opposition to a Pathmark Supercenter in their neighborhood but Shulman was right in their face supporting Norse Realty and mocking the community's protests.
And in 1991 Shulman commissioned a Willets Point study from PDC that eventually championed the industrial use of the area; but she threw that out and instead came out with her own in-house study in favor of commercial and retail uses that mirrored the real estate dream of the Wilpons who she has now joined forces with.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. However, this time, she isn't the BP but a private sector actor engaged in an illegal lobbying scheme that has so far benefited her to the tune of at least $675,000 in salaries-a figure that will mushroom if she is allowed to continue to front the new development of the Flushing waterfront.
Shephard concludes with the following cry for justice: "In fact, we should demand that she resign from the $3 billion project and an investigation ensue. Including her bank statements. Enough is enough!..It is time that Attorney General Schneiderman stop playing politics and dig deeper into Shulman and the Economic development Corp. and local development corporation run by her."
Shulman used to posture that she represented Queens and parlayed that posture into a lucrative sinecure on behalf of the developers that she always promoted. She did so, however, illegality and for her own financial gain. Shephard is right that this demands greater sanctions than a simple slap on the wrist.