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Confusion, anger over Koo remarks

TimesLedger Newspapers

City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) is in hot water with some of his constituents over remarks made at a recent meeting, about downtown Flushing, but a community leader said some in the audience may have misunderstood what he was saying.

Koo was speaking to a perennially packed room during the 109th Precinct Community Council’s monthly meeting Feb. 8, when he said, according to audience members, that residents should stop complaining that downtown Flushing is dirty.

He also said that 99 percent of the signs in Flushing contain English, according to audience members.

His comments were enough to prompt several calls and a letter to the editor of TimesLedger Newspapers.

Wanda Beck, president of the Bowne Park Civic Association and past president of the 109th Precinct Community Council, was also at the meeting and was upset at the councilman’s comments.

“It was unacceptable for a politician to say that in front of a group of people. He has not been truthful about the way he feels,” said Beck, who has known Koo before he became a politician. “I feel, bad day or not, as a politician and as a public servant he should have buttoned his lip.”

But Chrissy Voskerichian, president of the council, said she did not take Koo’s word in a negative way.

“I think some people took it as, ‘You shouldn’t complain.’ But I think he was saying that complaining is not enough,” she said. “I actually think he was being very positive.”

She said Koo was commenting on the room full of people who were going beyond complaining and coming out to the precinct meeting to show they care.

And as far as the English sign comment goes, according to a spokesman for Koo, the councilman is the co-sponsor of the Council bill that would eventually require all signs to be in English in addition to any foreign language. Koo took lots of heat from the Asian community for supporting the bill, the spokesman said.

One man who introduced himself as John Scandalios voiced his displeasure with Koo’s remarks during the public comment period of the meeting after the councilman had left.

“I can’t believe, for the life of me, that an elected official would go to a community meeting and tell them to stop complaining,” he said in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers.

Scandalios said he was at the meeting as a concerned citizen. But he also happens to be running for Koo’s seat in the upcoming 2013 elections for the Council.

The Flushing resident owns a comic book store in Bayside called Crazy Scondo’s. He is a former engineer who is calling himself the $999 candidate because he said it should not cost more than $1,000 to run for office.

Scandalios insisted he did not criticize Koo for political gains.

“I’m voicing my complaint as a citizen who wrote a letter to his office,” Scandalios said.

Koo, who recently switched to the Democratic Party after being elected as a Republican, has admitted in the past that public speaking is not his forte.

At the Queens Village GOP Club’s Abraham Lincoln dinner last year, he demurred that he was not a smooth-talking politician when he got up to praise a colleague.

Still, Beck and other in the community want Koo to make up for the comments.

“I was very, very surprised because I admired Peter Koo,” she said. “I still feel very confident that he can somehow redeem himself.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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