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Flushing company unveils statue honoring late Borough President Claire Shulman

(From l. to r.) Ellen Young, Queens Borough President Chief of Staff Franck Joseph, Queens Deputy Borough President Rhonda Binda, Senator John Liu, President of Crystal Window & Door Systems Steve Chen, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator Toby Stavisky, Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal and Founder and Chairman of Crystal Thomas Chen pose for a photo with a newly unveiled statue of former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

A six-foot bronze statue honoring the late Queens Borough President Claire Shulman was unveiled by executives of the Flushing-based national manufacturing company Crystal Window & Door Systems on Thursday, Oct. 7. 

Thomas Chen, founder and chairman of Crystal Window & Door Systems, and his son, Steve Chen, president of Crystal, held a press conference with local elected officials and members of the business and art community at its production facility, located at 31-10 Whitestone Expy. 

Steve Chen (l.) and Thomas Chen unveil a statue of former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

The statue is a bronze 6-foot-tall lifelike portrayal of Shulman depicted in motion, which characterized the former Queens borough president, who died in October 2020 at the age of 94. 

The statue will stand on an 18-foot-by-8-foot metal pathway base in the shape of an infinity sign, symbolizing Shulman’s continuous drive forward and her boundless energy. 

Steve Chen (l.)  and Thomas Chen pose for a photo with a newly unveiled statue of former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

It will be on temporary display at Crystal’s headquarters and factory in College Point for two weeks. Thereafter, it will be placed on permanent exhibit at Chen’s 200-acre private art and nature preserve, Crystal Park, in Dutchess County. 

“Her memories will always remain with us forever and it’s fitting that Crystal Park will be the place for her statue permanently,” said Thomas Chen, who described Shulman as a grandmother to him and said that she showed interest in his personal life as well. 

According to Thomas Chen, when he was starting his window manufacturing company in Queens, Shulman had helped him avoid many of the typical setbacks immigrant entrepreneurs faced. 

“She encouraged me to take executive business courses, engage reputable service providers and suppliers, and make Crystal Windows a good corporate citizen,” Thomas Chen said. 

Schneps Media President Victoria Schneps speaks during the statue unveiling on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

When Crystal was ready to expand in Queens, Shulman ensured New York City agencies worked effectively with Crystal as the company constructed and opened a large new factory. She continued to be a mentor, motivator and friend to Thomas and later to his son, Steve, as he stepped into the leadership role at Crystal.

Even after Shulman left public office in 2001, she and the Chens continued to be close friends. They shared a love of the arts and supported many cultural institutions throughout Queens.

Several years ago, Thomas was inspired to commission sculptures honoring notable friends who had contributed to his personal and business success.

The statue of Shulman is the first he commissioned. In 2019, internationally known Taiwanese sculptor Yutien Chang was engaged to create the bronze statue as a tribute to Shulman’s leadership for the business community of Queens and her counsel and friendship to Crystal Windows. 

(From left): Cathy Hung, Victoria Schneps, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator Toby Stavisky, Pauline Chu and Li Su pose for a photo during the unveiling on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

A native of Taiwan, Yutien Chang is an award-winning sculptor on the international stage. Chang has exhibited sculptures in Taiwan, New York, Amsterdam, Germany and other locations around the world, both as solo exhibitions and as part of festivals and shows. 

Chang’s sculptures are often provocative, examining the expectations placed on both people by society when making life and career choices, and the impact and consequences of succumbing to these expectations. 

In the same year, Shulman met with Chang and the Chens to discuss the project and presented renderings of his vision for the statue. 

“I was thrilled Claire was able to visit Crystal Park in October 2019 to see the location selected for her statue along a wooded path overlooking the lake,” Thomas Chen said. “Sadly, Claire did not get to see the completed work, but we are here today to share it with her many friends in Queens.” 

A rendering of the statue in its permanent location. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Queens Deputy Borough President Rhonda Binda described Shulman as a “fierce woman.”

“She was fair and she demanded so much from her staff because we know that’s what the families of Queens deserve,” Binda said. 

Queens Borough President Chief of Staff Franck Joseph remembered Shulman’s legacy as the first woman to become borough president of Queens. 

“Her legacy looks like the cultural hub that Queens has become. You see institutions that were built because Claire Shulman had a vision and she also worked with her team to execute that vision,” Joseph said. 

Deputy Queens Borough President Rhonda Binda and Queens Borough President Chief of Staff Franck Joseph speak during the former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman statue unveiling on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Congresswoman Grace Meng also reflected on Shulman’s legacy. 

“There are few people who cared more and made more of an impact on the families of Queens that Claire did and it really wasn’t just because of her job title; she deeply cared from the very beginning to the very end. She would randomly and often summon me for another new idea to help the people of Queens,” Meng said. “Every time Queens becomes more accessible and helps more working families here in the borough, it really is a testament to Claire and the incredible legacy she continues to leave all of us today.” 

The statue will remain on temporary display at Crystal Windows & Doors production facility through noon of Oct. 22. Friends of Shulman and members of the public are welcome to visit. 

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane. 

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