Greek Lightning: John Catsimatidis Hopes His Millions Can Electrify a Long-Shot Mayoral Bid

Illustration by Drew Friedman
Illustration by Drew Friedman

One night this week, you may be at home, minding your own business, and find yourself on the receiving end of a phone call from John Catsimatidis. Your next brush with him might happen when you’re driving or sitting in front of the television. These encounters will, no doubt, be memorable, thanks to the candidate’s loud squawk of a New York accent and his decidedly distinctive appearance. With an ample gut and a face padded by a prominent second chin, Mr. Catsimatidis looks less suited for prime time than for a caricature by the pioneering political cartoonist Thomas Nast as a mass of jowls and bursting blazer buttons.

Over the next few months, the businessman plans to spend several million of his own dollars to take his mayoral campaign to the phone lines and airwaves in an effort to show New Yorkers he’s a more approachable, homespun brand of billionaire than Michael Bloomberg.

“I grew up on 135th Street. I grew up on the poor side of New York. I grew up in Harlem. I was a store owner. I’m still a store owner,” Mr. Catsimatidis told The Observer on the phone from a weekend vacation in the Bahamas. “I’m not a Bloomberg billionaire. I am a real New Yorker … I didn’t go to Harvard, I didn’t go to Yale … I rooted for the Yankees, I didn’t root for the Boston Red Sox.”

Mr. Catsimatidis indeed lacks the present mayor’s patrician polish. While Mr. Bloomberg cuts a sleek figure in designer clothes and betrays his Harvard MBA in his fondness for taking careful, heavily researched, data-supported positions, Mr. Castimatidis and his opinions regularly seem to spill out of his rumpled, well-worn suits. His campaign kickoff in January ended with Mr. Catsimatidis’s staff pushing him away from a pack of reporters and toward his car as he continued holding forth on everything from his cuff links to his plan to serve for a salary of only 99 cents a year.  Continue reading Greek Lightning: John Catsimatidis Hopes His Millions Can Electrify a Long-Shot Mayoral Bid

Catsimatidis Demands New York Must Give Relief to “Sandy” Victims on Real Estate Taxes Common Sense Solution for Middle Class Homeowners

February 20, 2013

Location: Chamber Street and Park Row South, across from Brooklyn Bridge train station
Time:  10 am
For Immediate Release
K Huang
(646) 771-3810
Catsimatidis 2013
Catsimatidis Demands New York Must Give Relief to “Sandy” Victims on Real Estate Taxes  
Common Sense Solution for Middle Class Homeowners
NEW YORK, NY – John Catsimatidis, the independent Republican candidate for Mayor, today called on the city to extend the tax grievance deadline for property taxes beyond March 15 and announced the formation of a coalition of tax appeal attorneys to provide free initial advice to homeowners who believe their assessments are inaccurate. The Wednesday morning news conference was held in front of the NYC Municipal Building which houses the offices of the NYC Department of Finance and the Tax Commission.
The city sent  property-value notices dated January 15, 2013  to homeowners in neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, including Manhattan Beach and Seagate. Owners have to submit written request for reconsideration to the city Department of Finance to recalculate the percent of the property’s lost value. Property owners initially had until February 15 of this year to apply for for assessment relief but the city has extended the deadline to March 15.
According to Mayor Bloomberg, roughly 1,000 city homes were destroyed by the storm.  Local news reports estimate that a total of about 80,000 coastal homes also suffered water damage, some so badly that utility companies still won’t restore their heat or electricity. Other news reports state roughly 6,700 buildings around the city require significant repairs to be habitable, and about 750 more are deemed structurally unsound, according to city Buildings Department statistics. About 2,100 households are in FEMA-paid hotel rooms.

John Castimatidis said, “It is wrong and  unconscionable that the city sent out increased tax assessments to thousands of middle class families whose homes had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy.  How can you, in good faith, tell a homeowner that what’s left of their residence is now worth more than it was before it was ravaged by the storm?

“People whose lives and homes that were destroyed by the storm already have enough to deal with. City government needs to make this tax grievance process easier for the affected taxpayers. Mine, is a commonsense solution; I have gathered together a coalition of lawyers and organizations who will provide some free consultations to any homeowner who wants to learn more about how they can appeal their tax assessments. I’m doing my part to help the way I can to give these poor people some peace of mind.
“Homeowners just want the city to be fair; commonsense says that when your home is destroyed, you shouldn’t end up with higher property tax assessments.”
Despite the state legislature’s passage of a law to provide property tax relief to homeowner sand businesses affected by Sandy, the relief is not automatic and property owners must apply for any tax reductions.
According to statistics from the city’s Department of Finance, in 2011 the city received 27,944 applications for tax reassessment from residential property owners; 12,313 applications from commercial property owners and 3,670 applications from industrial property owners.
Local community organizations, like the Manhattan Beach Community Group ,(MBCG) have seen an increase in complaints from residents about tax hikes.
Catsimatidis hopes that lawyers can work collaboratively with local organizations and homeowners to fight the tax assessments.