John Catsimatidis’ real estate portfolio may unnerve voters

July 01, 2013 08:30AM

Billionaire and mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis’ vast real estate holdings may hurt his election chances with voters uneasy about potential conflicts of interest, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Catsimatidis, who owns supermarket chain Red Apple Group, also has 30 properties in four boroughs, including a waterfront development site on the Coney Island Boardwalk; a vacant lot near New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s uptown campus; and an ownership stake in the 20-story former U.S. Rubber Co. Building at 5 Columbus Circle.

“I wait and wait,” Catsimatidis told the Journal. “I wait and wait some more. In the meantime, I sell string beans.”

But insiders say that his portfolio would make it tough for him to address issues such as zoning, property taxes, flood protection and other real estate issues that are a central part of being mayor of New York City. Indeed, though Catsimatidis mostly buys and holds properties, he has recently ventured into development projects, such as the $200 million, 415-unit, three-tower market-rate condominium complex on Coney Island called Ocean Dreams, for which he told the Journal he is lining up financing.

It is such projects that could bring up conflict of interest questions.

“If he’s elected, can he even sit in on meetings about the property tax?” Bill Cunningham, the former senior adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, told the Journal.

Catsimatidis told the Journal that if he were elected, he would take a step back from his development projects, and recuse himself from issues that could affect his commercial interests. [WSJ]  – Hiten Samtani