New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Produce News, Progressive Grocery, California Avocado, and The Real Deal and Real Estate, some of the magazines set out in the waiting area of Big Apple Groups’ new offices at 800 3rd Avenue are a reminder of the grocery business (Gristedes Foods) that brought the Nisyros-born billionaire John Catsimatidis his first million at the age of 24 as well as his simultaneous decision to buy the building to ensure the stability of the store’s location. Large-scale investments in energy and aviation have followed. But rows and rows of pictures of Catsimatidis with presidents, more political VIPs, clergy, and other leaders document another aspect of his and his wife Margo Vonderstaar Catsimatidis’ lives: Catsimatidis’ campaign for the Republican nomination for mayor of New York City in the 2013 election and the extensive philanthropic activities of The Catsimatidis Family Foundation.
Moments after wrapping up a session with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for The Cats Roundtable radio talk show he hosts on WNYM Sundays Catsimatidis began his interview with the GN expressing strong thoughts about the dire socio-economic situation in Greece today. That’s what was on his mind, and he chose not to stray far from that topic throughout.
JC: There’s no reason that the people of Greece have to suffer as badly as they’re being made to suffer. It’s wrong. You know, I wish I had time. I would go there and fix things; maybe I should. See, I can’t run for President of the United States because I wasn’t born here.
GN: You’d have the “birthers” after you!
JC: That’s right. But somebody has to fix Greece. I think they’re going to squeeze, squeeze until there’s nothing left. We sold off every asset almost. We keep selling off assets. Every time they lend us money, they take another piece. And another piece. And it’s wrong.
GN: What do you think should be done at this time?
JC: It takes the right person. Like a Donald Trump could possibly fix the United States. Or, I think even Hilary. I think either Hilary or Donald Trump could do a better job than is being done right now in our country. Einai xalia.
GN: What solution can Greek Americans reading this interview promote?
JC: There’s no way to come up with a solution with the leadership we have—and I’m not blaming anybody in particular—or the proposed leadership in the future. The people need somebody to stand up and say enough is enough. I think Greece needs a spokesman that will speak up and be listened to by the rest of the European community. Hopefully someone shows up.
GN: Who do you suggest could do that?
JC: There’s nobody. I could do it, but I’m not going to go for that because I have my own…
Somebody should do it. A call to arms
GN: Since you feel you can help maybe too important not to consider,
JC: You’re right there; it’s too important not to consider. But you certainly need somebody to be able to stand up to the Germans and say enough is enough. Germany is prepared to be the Chairman of the Board as they are of all the European Union. The Brits were smart enough to back out and not be part of that monetary system. Tsipras didn’t know what to do with the NO referendum. They knew how to play him. I think maybe Greece should declare its independence from the European Union. It’s a problem. The people should not suffer the way they’re suffering. Somebody should yell out to the Germans: Stop making our people suffer.
GN: What are the ways the Greek American community help?
JC: There’s very little the Greek American community can do to help except make a demand on their congress people to demand that Germany stop preying on Greece. They’ll be heard if there are enough voices. Israel gets sympathy all the time, why not Greece?
GN: What is it a matter of finance?
JC: No, it’s a matter of proper finance. They can make a program to pay back their debts over thirty year time period instead of making them all due over the next five years. And Germany is capable of doing that. In other words, “We’re financing Greece over a thirty-year period versus demanding payments now.
GN: Articles are being written about you all the time. Is there anything you have wanted to counteract, or say, but haven’t been given the chance?
JC: Well, I’ve has one hundred and twenty weeks of radio programs so far, and I do get my point across…what I think is right in our country and what I think is right for the world. Education needs big improvement. Medicine. Certainly we have to protect all people against all these new bugs. I just spoke to Betsy McCaughey who was Lieutenant Governor of New York State, and we talked about Zia, the new superbug that antibiotics can’t kill.
GN: Will you run for Mayor of New York again?
JC: People have been pushing me towards it but I haven’t made up my mind.
GN: Do you have any thoughts about the Greek Orthodox community?
JC: We lost Mike Jaharis, who was running the Archdiocese ever since I left—he replaced me. I think the Archbishop has to find a dynamite replacement for Mike.