Are Everyday New Yorkers Open to Another Billionaire Mayor?

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Photo: Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

Extremely quotable Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis finally announced the mayoral run he's long flirted with yesterday, making the somewhat painful attempt to sell himself as a "common billionaire," not Michael Bloomberg II. In trying to stress his Everyman aspects, the big businessman noted that he did not graduate from college and told of his parents' move to New York City from Greece in 1948, when was 6 months old.

"I want to be a Mayor for all the neighborhoods of our great city," Catsimatidis stressed in a statement. "I want to be a Mayor who fairly represents all New Yorkers whether you are a cab driver from South Asia, a bodega owner from the Caribbean or an aspiring actor from the Midwest." But after twelve years of Bloomberg, those regular people — along with having no idea who Catsimatidis is — are mostly skeptical. We know because we asked them.

Unwieldy as Catsimatidis's name is, his dream constituents just haven't heard of it:

"No, I don't know him," said Surait Chima, a cab driver from India who's been in New York City for 33 years.

"Honestly, I don't know a lot about him," shrugged Jamie Wolfe, a recent college graduate and aspiring actor from Chicago.

Recent polls put Mr. Gristedes well behind in the Republican field, collecting just 9 percent of the vote compared to former MTA chief Joe Lhota's 23 percent, with both trailing "unidentified" at 53 percent.

As for hearing him out based on the pointed targeting, it depends. "Sounds pretty good. I mean, you know ... " said Melvin Major, the Carribbean man behind Miss Lily's Bake Shop & Melvin's Juice Box in lower Manhattan. "Everybody says that stuff at the beginning, but you gotta give him a chance, right?"

"I think that's a beautiful statement," said the struggling Wolfe, happy to be singled out. "Anyone that can tap in and understand what the struggle is — New York is a very challenging place and it's great to hear someone so excited to acknowledge people in those career paths. A lot of people belittle actors and assume we're all waiters."

Chima, the cab driver, has harder feelings. "Who cares? What [billionaire] cares!" he said, getting heated. "Like Bloomberg! Sandy [comes] and he don't give anybody pennies. He's a billionaire? These people, they don't care about you and me!"

"With Bloomberg, nobody has thought about anyone else in years," said a more hopeful Major. "He's got to focus on the rent stuff ... Everyone's getting pushed out," he added. "My vote is up for grabs!"

Catsimatidis, though, might have a saving grace with a certain demographic: Wolfe, who admitted she doesn't really follow politics, perked up when she heard how he made his money. "Oh, I love Gristedes! I shop there regularly," she said, naming the locations of three separate stores near her Chelsea apartment. "He's got my vote if he started Gristedes."