By Stephen Stirling
State Senate candidate Peter Koo was knocked off the ballot by the New York State Supreme Court Monday, a decision that could abruptly end his bid to unseat incumbent state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone).
State Supreme Court Justice James P. Dollard ruled Koo's candidacy on both the Republican and Conservative party tickets invalid after Stavisky's campaign filed a lawsuit last week challenging his residency, claiming the Flushing businessman's primary residence was in Port Washington, L.I., not Flushing as he claimed.
State law requires that Senate candidates must reside within the district of their candidacy for at least one year prior to the general election.
In an eight-page decision Dollard said Koo repeatedly contradicted himself and the statements of his wife Bernadette, which he said “casts doubt on the witness' testimony” at a court hearing.
“From his demeanor on the stand, the manner in which he gave his testimony, his evasiveness and the inconsistency in his testimony, the court finds the respondent not to be a credible witness,” Dollard wrote.
Koo appealed the case at the state Court of Appeals in Brooklyn Tuesday, according to his campaign manager, Oliver Tan, who said a decision would likely come by the end of the week.
“Of course, we're always disappointed when things don't go our way, but we weren't exactly surprised. This isn't the first time that the Staviskys have done this before,” Tan said, referring to Stavisky's late husband Leonard, who attempted to have a Republican challenger thrown off the ballot in 1996. “We're feeling very confident. We want to get this over as soon as possible and get it out of the way so we can get back to the issues where it should be.”
Calls to Koo's attorney, Mark Fang, were not immediately returned.
According to Dollard's decision, Koo testified that he planned to sell his Port Washington home in the near future, which his wife later denied. Koo also testified that he parked his car in a garage in Flushing, but later said he rarely drives to Flushing.
Dollard said while Koo did provide evidence that he has been using his apartment at 133-24 41st Ave. as a residence since April, there is no convincing evidence that he had done so prior to November 2007, which is what would be required to validate his candidacy.
Koo announced he was running for the seat in February.
A spokesman for Stavisky's campaign hailed the decision.
“Peter Koo's candidacy is a sham,” said Joe Reubens, a spokesman for Stavisky's re-election campaign. “Two very important facts came out in this case: that Peter Koo does not live in this community and that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth, even when under oath.
“If Koo moved to Port Washington for the schools, as he testified, perhaps he should consider running for office there, but certainly not in Queens.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, ext. 138.