Billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis loves the look of Miami Beach’s high-rise apartments so much, he’s bringing the style to Coney Island.
He hopes the Ocean Dreams apartment complex, with its distinctive mirrored facade and beachfront view, will attract a middle-class population to the underdeveloped area.
“Miami has beautiful buildings and I think New York should have some beautiful buildings, too,” Catsimatidis said, recalling a Saturday-morning visit to the neighborhood “when the sun was shining, and I fell in love.”
Catsimatidis, a self-made billionaire, started his career as manager of a supermarket. Now his Red Apple Group owns the Gristedes supermarket chain and energy companies, in addition to real estate.
Catsimatidis hosts a politics and human-interest radio show and ran for New York City mayor 2013, but lost in the Republican primary.
Located on the neighborhood’s western end, the $300 million complex overlooks the beach and Coney Island Boardwalk on Surf Avenue. The two 21-story towers include a business center, rooftop terraces and lounges.
While Ralph Zirinsky, the project development manager, said rental prices have not been set, The New York Times reported they will be in the $4,000 to $5,000 range for a two-bedroom apartment
The complex will also offer a supermarket and a pharmacy, which Catsimatidis said he hopes will help the neighborhood.
But area residents aren’t so sure, fearing they may be pushed out of their low-income housing. The neighborhood adjoins the wealthy Seagate community.
On one side of the apartments is a Jewish social service organization. On the other is a set of faded, brick housing projects.
Although Catsimatidis intends to improve the community, the complex raises concerns among nearby residents.
Richard Joseph, a local high school student, worries about gentrification because the development might affect housing for low-income communities. He says he’s noticed a lot of construction in the area in the last couple of years.
“I’m not going nowhere,” Joseph said of his apartment. “My mom had this apartment since before I was born. I’m willing to fight for it.”
In the neighborhood surrounding Ocean Dreams, children play in nearby parks and teenagers gather to talk in street corners. Although activities in the area don’t seem unusual, some residents fear for their safety.
“There’s too many shootings,” said Margaret Mechail, a teacher’s assistant at a nearby preschool. “You can hear the gunshots.”
Mechail thinks the apartments will improve the neighborhood’s look, but she doesn’t think it will help its social problems.
“It’s pretty, but it won’t change what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Mechail said.
Catsimatidis plans to build more apartments on both sides of the towers.
With Ocean Dreams scheduled to open this summer, he hopes to rent out all its units by the end of this year.
Karla Florez is a reporter in the South Florida Media Network’s New York City Bureau.