Billionaire says, ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
John Catsimatidis said he’s not at all concerned over the fact that The New York Times, Daily News, and Post have all snubbed him by endorsing his opponent, Joe Lhota, for the Republican mayoral primary on Sept. 10.
“The Times endorsed Mark Green over Mayor Bloomberg,” he said, referring to the mayor’s race in 2001, when the public advocate was widely believed to have a big advantage over first-time candidate Bloomberg until Bloomberg won the race.
Catsimatidis is hoping the experts have it wrong again this year.
In addition to the three major daily endorsements, Lhota, a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani Administration and former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman, also enjoys a comfortable lead over Catsimatidis in most polls. In a poll conducted by AM New York and News 12, half of Republican voters questioned favored Lhota while 28 percent said they would vote for Catsimatidis.
But Catsimatidis has big time endorsements of his own to show off, including an endorsement from Tom Ridge, the former secretary of the US Departmen tof Homeland Security.
Catsimatidis said he believes his outsider status (he has never run for public office before) will help him with voters. “Mayor Bloomberg never held public office before either. And he made a pretty decent mayor,” he said.
In a phone interview with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Sept. 6, Catsimatidis, who earned his fortune as the founder and of the Gristedes supermarket chain, said his business background gives him the knowledge of how to run the city. “When I meet with the chambers of commerce and with restaurant associations, they’re happy that I’m running. They know that I feel their pain,” he said.
“I have been a CEO for 44 years. I have a proven track record,” he said. Professional politicians are beholden to their big campaign contributors who would likely want favors in return, he said. “If the money s there, there is an IOU there, too,” he said. Catsimatidis said that by contrast, he can be an independent mayor. “I do not owe anybody anything,” he said.
He feels a special affinity with Brooklyn residents he said. “I went to Brooklyn Tech High School. I grew up in Harlem and I had to travel far to get to Brooklyn Tech. I love Brooklyn,” he said. He established charitable trust for Brooklyn Tech several years ago to help his alma mater.
“I’m tough, but I have a heart,” he said.
If elected, he would push for Brooklyn residents to get a break on the tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, he said. “It’s ridiculous that they have to pay the full price,” he said.
“If I win, Brooklyn wins,” Catsimatidis said, adding that he would help the borough’s small businesses thrive and prosper.
The three areas he said he would stress if he were to win City Hall are public safety, taxes and schools.
“Maintaining the safety of all our citizens is my top priority,” he said, adding that he believes stop-and-frisk is an important crime fighting tool. “We have one of the safest cities in the country. We certainly don’t want to be Chicago,” he said.
Instead of throwing out stop-and-frisk,” we should be providing better training for our young cops,” he said. He would ask Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to stay on the job. “If he didn’t want to stay, I would ask him to help me pick his successor,” Catsimatidis said.
Catsimatidis pledged to freeze all taxes in the city, “especially for small businesses.”
The candidate charged that “our schools are broken” and said he would change the educational system. “I would stop the dropout rate by giving kids a chance to learn a trade. We could train them to become plumbers and electricians so that they can make a decent salary,” he said.