John Catsimatidis begins our phone conversation with an emphatic “I’m waiting for the sun to shine!” — a perfect setup to talk about Coney Island, where the supermarket mogul has reached deep into his pockets to spread the sunshine.
Three years ago, when he opened Ocean Drive, Coney Island’s first luxury high-rise, Catsimatidis staked out a vision for the neighborhood beyond seasonal roller coasters, hot dog eating contests, and mermaid parades.
He drew a line in the sand, so to speak: a 22-story twin tower complex on Surf Avenue with market-rate rentals, ocean views, and pearl-necklace perks. There’s a 25,000 square-foot sundeck with bocce court, putting green, life-size chess, and a 100-inch TV screen; indoors is a 50-foot swimming pool, kids’ playroom, gym, billiards, and foosball — enough to put other private developers on notice about the potential of building vertically on Coney Island.
“We spent 400 million dollars building two beautiful towers,” said Catsimatidis. “And the tenants we have there at Ocean Drive love it. They love that ocean air. You breathe in that ocean air and you live 10 years longer.”
All tenants can breathe in that air, and most can see that ocean. That’s because nearly every one of the 425 apartments, from studios to three-bedrooms, feature a private terrace and views of the southern Brooklyn coast. A three-story subterranean garage provides plenty of parking, and this year Ocean Drive expects to open ground-floor retail with a D’Agostino or Gristedes supermarket (the lease has been signed).
Catsimatidis isn’t done, either. Three lots next door remain undeveloped. “And we’d like to build three more towers on the beach,” he said.
The project, which would increase his investment on Coney Island to $1 billion, has been under discussion with the city for a few years. “We need to make sure New York City is on its way back from the problems we had recovering from COVID,” said Catsimatidis, who’s bullish on Coney Island’s future as a year-round destination.
“I think Coney Island as a tourist destination may be on the way to happening — people are talking about Coney Island as a possible place for a casino or other entertainment facilities,” said Catsimatidis.
He tempers that enthusiasm by saying Coney Island needs some upgrades — to the subway, an ocean-side ferry, maybe an additional bridge. “But it can happen,” he said. “And why not? It’s famous. Mention Coney Island anyplace in the world. The name is recognizable.”
I mention to Catsimatidis that perhaps Coney Island can get some infrastructure funding from Washington D.C. “President Biden loves to spend money, and we have the majority leader in Senator Chuck Schumer, and we have the Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries,” he said. “They certainly have a lot of influence over President Biden. And I would love to see the President do that. And I would tell the House Republicans — vote to help Coney Island!”
Politics aside, for residents of Ocean Drive, Coney Island’s appeal begins at the boardwalk and extends to the horizon, 22 floors high and as far as the eye can see. “In New York, out of the 12 months in a year, I think you have almost nine months of real good living on the ocean,” said Catsimatidis. “Beautiful boardwalk, beautiful ocean, beautiful beaches.”
And beautiful winter pricing – get three months free rent, with studios starting at $1,500. Check out the website here: https://oceandrivenyc.com