John Catsimatidis for Mayor? Yes, reports say, he’s set up the tools for replacing de Blasio in the 2021 election. Will run #2 work out better?
By David Stone
The Greek immigrant’s run will, if nothing else, add idiosyncrasy and some humor to the campaign. He came to America as a six-month old and opened his first grocery business at 23.
Last time around, in 2013, “Cats” lost to an uninspiring Joe Lhota in the Republican primary. Lhota then lost to a surprising Bill de Blasio.
If he wins over Republicans, this time, he’ll likely face Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams or Corey Johnson, the city council speaker.
Odd note: Catsimatidis daughter Andrea is chairwoman Manhattan’s Republican Party, and she was married to Richard Nixon’s grandson, now divorced.
About John Catsimatidis for Mayor
As soon as he saw it, my ever alert friend Sylvan Klein forwarded the story.
It immediately reminded me of two things.
During his 2017 run, Cats recalled trying to revive his cat with mouth to mouth resuscitation.
(An avid pet lover, he’s advocated free food for anyone who adopts shelter animals.)
And there’s the New York Times editorial snark that, if Catsimatidis wanted to clean up city government, he ought to try cleaning up his Red Apple and Gristedes supermarkets.
Unlike bland, play it safe politicians, Cats doesn’t fade into the wallpaper when the going gets rough. He’s out there, and he’s not shy.
““I want to do a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives,” Catsimatidis told the New York Post.
And in 2018, he shared the stage with civil rights pioneer Jesse Jackson at a Wall Street Journal forum on leadership.
Say what you will about about John Catsimatidis, he never fits the standard form.
First Time I Met John Catsimatidis
A decade ago, I was lured back into journalism. Mostly, I contributed local art reviews, but my editor asked me to cover a news event on Roosevelt Island.
As long as he was willing to pay me for work at which I wasn’t very good…
Invigorating local business was the theme, and a hundred or so gathered in The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, now a community center.
This was long before John Catsimatidis ran for mayor, the first time, but he was well-known locally as owner of Gristedes, the market residents loved to hate.
Cats sat at the head table with Hudson president David Kramer. Kramer’s company recently paired with Related to manage the community’s one-street retail.
Ahead of this event, Kramer bragged to the Wall Street Journal that he would “shock and awe” a moribund business corridor. And, to the surprise of many, he introduced Gristedes as his “anchor store.”
Residents stepped up to complain about prices, quality and the store’s shabby appearance.
But Cats never flinched.
In good humor, he painted a grim picture of New York City’s grocery retail environment, making it clear that he wasn’t going bankrupt as his competitors had. Nor did he hanker to become like “Whole Paycheck.”
Whole Foods was then expanding in the city, not yet owned by Amazon.
Although he claimed to have extracted himself from day-to-day activities, he tossed in his marketing insights. He said Gristedes needed better produce, especially organics.
That’s the direction in which customers were heading.
And he promised a makeover, an upgrade to a cleaner, more attractive Gristedes.
He came through on those promises.
But the legacy endured, and wide acceptance lagged until Foodtown took over operations, this year.
When John Catsimatidis Ran for Mayor in 2013…
John Catsimatidis for Mayor of New York in 2021?
This time around, Cats stands a better chance of winning the nomination than in 2013. And he’s got the personal resources to self-finance, an advantage for a hard to pin down freewheeler who crosses party lines.
One thing for sure… However it goes, it won’t be dull.