Catsimatidis builds on Myrtle Avenue

Waiting game: Fort Greene development decades in the making

The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

THUMBS UP: John Catsimatidis, center, in what will soon be the lobby of his new building at 81 Fleet Pl., with ironworker Nubu Owusu, left, and safety inspector Luis Santos.
MEN AT WORK: The Red Apple Group hopes to finish building on Fleet Place by 2015.
BREAK ROOM: A construction worker takes a breather atop The Giovanni.
UP, UP, AND AWAY: The view from the roof of 81 Fleet Pl. towards Downtown Construction has been exploding in the area for a decade and john Catsimatidis is finally cashing in on an investment he made more than 30 years ago.
TOP FLIGHT: The view from the roof of 81 Fleet Pl., looking out over the Ingersoll Houses.

A real estate tycoon and mayoral also-ran’s vision for a Fort Greene block is finally coming together — more than 30 years after he bought the property.

Billionaire and former Republican candidate for mayor John Catsimatidis bought up nearly a block of land along Myrtle Avenue between Ashland and Fleet places back in the early 1980s and sat on it for decades, waiting for the right moment to get his project going. Now, with the first tower of a four-building compound built, the second under construction, and the remaining two on the horizon, is that time, he said. The bigwig who was a proponent of aggressive policing during his colorful 2013 campaign joked that he packed illegal weaponry while visiting the neighborhood back when Myrtle was nicknamed Murder Avenue.

“I bought the properties when you had to come here with two guns,” Catsimatidis said during a press conference inside the under-construction building. “Just in case one of the guns runs out of bullets.”

The fat cat said his purchase of the block for less than $1 million and his subsequent decades of sitting on it were all part of the strategy of his company Red Apple Group.

“We are buyers and holders,” he said. “We invest in neighborhoods. We believe in our city.”

The 2004 rezoning of Downtown opened the door for Catsimatidis to build skyscrapers on the site. The plan he settled on included four residential towers with ground-floor retail. Building would have started soon thereafter, but the Great Recession threw a wrench in the works, he said.

“If the world didn’t fall apart in 2007, these all would have been done years ago,” Catsimatidis said.

Instead of abandoning the project, Red Apple decided to do it piecemeal, one edifice at a time.

The first is the Andrea, a nine-story building on Ashland Place named after his daughter. It contains 95 market-rate rental units, a Red Apple supermarket, and a CVS pharmacy. It opened in 2010.

Catsimatidis hopes to have the second building finished by the end of the year. The 15-story apartment tower includes 205 rental apartments, all of them market rate, with more ground-floor retail. Catsimatidis said he wanted to name this one after his son John, Jr, but that practical considerations made him think twice.

“We could call it ‘The John,’ but nobody wants to live in ‘The John,’ ” he said. “We’re going to call it ‘Giovanni,’ ” using the Italian variation of his son’s given name.

A third building will be about the same size as The Giovanni, but will include about 40 so-called “affordable” units. The company hopes to break ground on that one later this year.

The final piece of the project is the largest — about twice as big as the one currently under construction. Details are not pinned down yet, but construction is slated to start in 2015.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Brooklyn says:
yeah, okay. "affordable" for who?
May 19, 2014, 10:04 am
Pat from Carroll Gardens says:
And if the Chinese Physicians group had been awarded LICH, Catsimatidis would have sat on it for 20 years until he could build anything he wanted, after the obligatory wait for a hospital was over.
May 19, 2014, 10:19 am
judahSpechal from bed-stuy says:
“I bought the properties when you had to come here with two guns,” Catsimatidis said during a press conference inside the under-construction building. “Just in case one of the guns runs out of bullets.”

Really when was this even factual?

Sadly, who were the actual victims/perps of "Murder Ave"?

I've never understood these type statements. Are they humorious or cautionary or just another badge for the so called "pioneers"?
May 19, 2014, 10:44 am
Peter Engel from Fort Greene says:
I guess that born charmer JCats can afford to offend anyone he wants, even the patrons and employees of his store.
May 19, 2014, 12:52 pm
Dwtnbklyn from Downtown says:
He owned the substandard supermarket on myrtle avenue on the same site throughout the 80s and 90s and did nothing for the community except close it down and strand the neighborhood without a grocery store for years. Nice way to treat and talk about his customers . Welcome back to the neighborhood.
May 19, 2014, 1 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
He's not obliged to "do anything for the community." That's a personal choice and it's not for anyone to judge. There's already an "affordable housing" clause on development. If the developer chooses not to develop for however long, that's his choice.
May 19, 2014, 4:59 pm
Dwtnbklyn from Downtown says:
A billionaire's choice not to do anything for a community he's been profiting from for years. I agree that's his personal choice.
May 19, 2014, 5:33 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Some of these developers have good connections, so they can break a promise and get away with it scott free.
May 19, 2014, 5:41 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Hope all these highrises have their own schools, parks, hospitals and fire houses because there are no services for all these folks moving into the 'hood.
May 19, 2014, 8 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Tal, what promise has this developer broken?
May 19, 2014, 8:03 pm
Former from Ft. Greener says:
If he waits another 30 years he should be able to buy the Ingersoll and Whitman houses and continue his expansion.
May 19, 2014, 8:38 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
I think Mr. Catsimatidis ment to say he didn't believe in the neighborhood, and therefore waited for the poor to be displaced before developing the land. He has a right to build only market rate apartments, but don't then turn around and state you care. This guy doesn't care, and that is partly why he is not mayor of NYC.
May 20, 2014, 11:14 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Chooch, I say this because Ratner claimed he would keep his promises if he got his way, and then lied about a lot of them, but there are still those that believe him despite that.
May 20, 2014, 6:09 pm
b from gp says:
The real big gun developers lay down the infrastructural tracks before they build without even maxing out their FARs.
May 20, 2014, 9:31 pm
b from gp says:
Where's his hard hat? Ha!
May 20, 2014, 9:38 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Bicycle Show says:
Well no, Tal, the Atlantic Yards project has been delayed because it is an enormous project of great complexity. It's not welfare. It's not just just a handout that happens. It actually has to be built. Why don't you get out there and help them if you're so anxious to get what you seem to think you are entitled to.
May 20, 2014, 11:21 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Chooch, it's the other way around on the Atlantic Yards. The only thing that anyone wanted anything built on was the rail yards themselves, not other's property. The way you are sounding, you either were paid for by Ratner or you were just living under a rock on this. I suggest you read the Atlantic Yards Report by Norman Oder to know the real story on this, and he wasn't asked by the opposition to make that blog, he did that on his own.
May 21, 2014, 5:41 pm
j bryant from crownheights says:
affordable for who, its extreme lowincome or extreme high income, make these apartments for all income levels,30 thousand to 40 thousands a year for a single person
May 22, 2014, 7:30 pm

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