Is the City ready for another billionaire Mayor?
John Catsimatidis visited BRC amid a level of anticipation from attendees. Members wanted to hear his vision for New York – and were aware that the Kings County GOP weeks before had chosen him as its choice for NYC Mayor. (Brooklyn’s County GOP had previously backed Adolpho Carrion.)
Mr. Catsimatidis was the last of five prospective candidates for the Republican line to visit Sam’s restaurant in the 2013 race. Respectful of their sacrifice and commitment to public service, BRC has been able to openly learn the backgrounds, achievements, pose local issues to them in extended Q & A periods, and see up close how questions were answered. While Mr. Catsimatidis could not take many questions – his next stop was paying respects at wake services – he immediately blended in with the group by sitting among them, trying the pizza and telling anecdotes about his family.
Mr. Catsimatidis prides himself as a “mayor for all the people” and a man that has been “all over the City” due to the locations of his stores and real estate concerns.
Known for his business success including Gristedes supermarkets, aerospace ventures and for philanthropy with PAL (Police Athletic League), with political and Hellenic/Greek organizations – Mr. Catsimatidis delivers an interesting narrative near immediately. He’s a home grown success story. He tells of a modest upbringing in upper Manhattan/Harlem – and ultimately ties into the American dream.
He tells a life-story of hard-work and how management of a food market led to ownership (at about 21 years old) – and how he shed aside formal education in New York University “with 6 credits left” to focus on the lucrative business he was building uptown. Decades later, Mr. Catsimatidis is a billionaire who believed he was ready to run for Mayor in 2009 “but stepped aside being Bloomberg was doing a good job”.
On a macro-business level, Mr. Catsimatidis relays how “money” and investments have come into NYC – on the faith of what Mayor Bloomberg has done for the international business community, planned for NY, and the general stability of law and order. He’d like to do more of that.
He says a main focus is education. He feels he’s ready to “give back, not take” for all he’s amassed. He feels that the lower income and middle class families, and students in particular, need to understand how to earn a better living. “They should have an option to learn a trade and make 70, 80 thousand dollars.” Creating jobs is a strongpoint of his, as he says he’s created “10s of thousands of jobs and no other candidate can say that.” He tells of fundraising for Brooklyn Tech, where he graduated from despite being raised in Manhattan.
Later, he added that he’s “a man of vision” due to his idea of a 3rd World’s Fair to summon 100 of greatest high-tech companies to New York and demonstrate their visions for the future of the City. He said this “would create another 10, 20 thousand good jobs in construction and operations” and (borrowing an idea of Mayor Bloomberg’s team for the Olympic bid) spread pavilions throughout each borough – accessible by water taxis.
But for purposes of the primary, Mr. Catsimatidis says using his own money is an advantage – as he’s not asking for any more. “I have friend-raisers, not fundraisers.”
In expressing how he can win vs. other candidates, Mr. Catsimatidis cited statistics of the Romney national election – how New York went “89 to 19 against the Republican”. (He added playfully that he would’ve won had he run.) The 89-19 statistic got some heads nodding with the added thought that “any Republican needs ‘Reagan Democrats’ to win”…However, the 2009 NYC mayoral election was far closer. Moreover, the voting for a national candidate (that didn’t campaign here) overlooks that Giuliani won 2x, and Bloomberg 3x. The Republican line, it could be said, has delivered the last 5 mayoral terms in a row in NYC since 1994.
Mr. Catsimatidis also relays something that no other candidate can say… that stalwarts of the Democratic Party including Pres. Bill Clinton and possibly Congressman Charles Rangel may very well support him in a general election. This may have to do with his connections/friendships or prior support of their races – but is a certain speculation of wide support across party lines
He offered that he has a friendship and sponsorship of a one-man play (“Fiorello”) with actor Tony Lo Bianco who plays Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Mr. Catsimatidis draws inspiration from both the play and the legacy/life of Mayor La Guardia – and has recently supplied tickets for a performance in upper Manhattan. He offered to possibly bring the show to each borough, so that more may see it. Of his campaign manager Rob Ryan, Mr. Catsimatidis said he “was the son of Fiorello LaGuardia’s chief of staff”.
Answering a question, Mr. Catsimatidis also spoke of how he’ll communicate with labor unions, with many contracts coming due for negotiation in the next election. “I’ve never had a problem with unions in my businesses, across decades,” he added, underlining his point of being able to handle the negotiations.
Our attendees did have many questions for Mr. Catsimatidis – including asking about an interview with NY Times and NY-1’s Sam Roberts in June, 2012 when he speculated on a run for a Mayor by characterizing himself as “I am a Clinton Democrat” (3:40-4:05 on the video) that couldn’t be elected as a Democrat, as a businessman. Does that mean he’s changed parties in his past or recently? That history will probably be explained across the primary – which Mr. Catsimatidis informed is on September 10th.
Brownstone has now seen all 5 for Mayor in less than 4 month’s time – and appreciates each candidate coming to our areas of Brooklyn. Doubtless we will see more of them across the 5 months from now until the Republican primary election.
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