Evan Stavisky and Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky are husband and wife. He is a well-known political consultant in Queens; she is the head of the Rockland County Democratic party. When they attend the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina in September, they will represent districts an hour’s drive apart.
Their dual lives have led to grumbling among Queens Democrats and questions about the state’s porous residency laws. But Evan Stavisky says the arrangement is proper, if convoluted, as he remains as devoted to his native Queens as his wife is to her native Rockland.
“Like many modern families, my wife has her own career, and has devoted herself to electing Democrats in the community she grew up in,” he said. “I am as proud of her work in Rockland as I am of my work in Queens.”
Anecdotally, he appears to have more of a life in Rockland, where he and his wife have two dogs and are regular donors to the local Jewish Community Center. They married in 2002, after they met while Evan Stavisky was working on State Senate campaign for her late father, Ken Zebrowski.
Kristen has deep roots in Rockland and was recently elected Rockland County Democratic Committee Chair. Evan has deep roots in Queens, where the street outside his apartment and the school on the corner are named for his late father, former Sen. Leonard Stavisky.
He does not claim a primary residence property tax exemption in Rockland, which would trim thousands of dollars off his annual bill. He also pays higher New York City income taxes than he would if he claimed Rockland as his primary residence.
Still, even though his drivers license gives a Queens address, some of his neighbors there say he is a scarce presence. “He’s rarely ever home,” one said.
What complicates the picture are Evan Stavisky’s dual roles as a Democratic district leader and a consultant with the Parkside Group, which represents some of the county’s leading candidates—including his mother, Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who has paid Parkside more than $440,000 over her career.
Democratic operatives claim Evan Stavisky keeps the Queens home in part to maintain his position as district leader, giving him a vote in picking local candidates and access to potential Parkside clients – accusations he angrily denies.
“Since becoming a district leader nearly 14 years ago, political campaigns in my neighborhood have accounted for less than one percent of the firm’s revenues,” he said by email. “The firm does not work for any client in my community unless it is someone I am already supporting as a District Leader.”
Parkside’s annual revenues from lobbying and campaign management are sizable, and have grown from $490,000 at its start in 2000 to more than $3 million last year. And while political campaigns in his neighborhood might make up a very small part of Parkside’s business, they bring in a not insignificant amount of money.
In 2009 Parkside represented City Council candidate John Choe, who was co-president of the nearby Mitchell-Linden Civic Association along with Arlene Fleishman – the building manager for Evan Stavisky’s Queens apartment.
Choe held at least one fundraiser in the co-op complex, and paid the Parkside Group more than $120,000 in consulting fees.
Despite Queens politicians’ grumbling about Evan Stavisky’s home life, election law in New York governing residency can be extremely slippery. A state Supreme Court decision in 2001 defined residence as a place where a person “maintained a fixed, permanent and principal home and to which he, wherever temporarily located, always intends to return.”
Yet Evan Stavisky’s voter registration is for an apartment one floor below the one he currently lives in. The city Board of Elections says he has been registered at this address since 1993, though he no longer lives there and the apartment has been sold to another family. Stavisky said he never thought to change his voter registration address, because it would be inconvenient.
“When moving within the same building ten years ago, I did not re-register to vote,” he said, by way of explanation. “That would have been a ridiculous waste of time.”
If he were to change his registration, however, he could theoretically face a challenge to his residency from the Queens County Board of Elections, which is authorized to consider all “attendant circumstances” in its determination of voter eligibility, including things like property registration, marital status and his spouse’s residence, according to the state’s election law.
Stavisky says he spends so much time on the road between Rockland, Albany and New York City that he would be hard-pressed to say the number of days he spent in any one place.
Still, this all begs a question: why would Stavisky face the potential hassle the Queens apartment causes?
He said his reasons are both pragmatic – a home in New York City gives him easier access to the Parkside Group’s lower Manhattan offices – and idealistic.
“I have been a party leader for nearly 15 years, a member of the Democratic County Committee since 1986, and a part of this community my entire life,” he said.
“I have owned and resided in the same co-op in Flushing for years, have always been a New York City taxpayer, and am proud of my volunteer work as a Democratic District leader in my community.”
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