Cats outta the bag! Grocery magnate, developer buys Coney property

Brooklyn Daily
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Billionaire supermarket mogul and developer John Catsimatidis is betting on the Coney Island waterfront.

The builder bought the Boardwalk-adjacent former Federation Employment and Guidance Service building on Surf Avenue and W. 35th Street in Coney Island — a full 20 blocks from the booming Amusement District — for a cool $7.7 million last week, this paper has learned. Catsimatidis has no immediate designs for the newly purchased land, and buying it was no indication he will begin constructing the blocks-long Ocean Dreams development he’s been planning nearby for years — but it is a sign that Coney’s stock is rising, he said.

“It’s a very speculative area,” he said.

He blamed city policy for delaying development on his waterfront People’s Playground properties.

“We may build it, we may not, depending on how much cooperation we get from the city.”

Catsimatidis would no elaborate further but may have been alluding to the now-expired 421-a tax abatement program, which in part gave developers tax breaks for building on previously vacant lots, such as the two he scooped up next to the recently acquired social services building, for the Ocean Dreams project in 2008.

Speaking broadly at a real estate summit in October, Catsimatidis said “because they’re playing around with that 421-a system, we may not build,” and that “if the city creates obstacles, the next $100 million we spend might be in Florida instead of New York,” according to Real Estate Weekly.

Still, the high-roller wants to spend his dough developing Coney Island’s residential wards.

We’d love to spend money down there, but we’ll spend money elsewhere if it doesn’t work,” he said.

Catsimatidis amassed land at W. 35th and W. 36th streets for his Ocean Dreams project and got the city to rezone the land in 2011 to accommodate his plan for 415 apartments in a mix of low- and high-rise buildings — including two 14-story towers — along with commercial space.

He has yet to begin construction more than five years after the rezoning, but that does not mean his plans for the seaside are sunk — Catsimatidis bought pieces of Downtown on the cheap and waited more than 30 years to start building four residential towers there.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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