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Billionaire talk show host in eminent domain fight with Amherst


Manhattan billionaire John Catsimatidis said his fight with the Town of Amherst over a former gas station site is just another example of an anti-business atmosphere in New York State.

Catsimatidis knows New York's governor through his businesses and his political radio show. He owned a gas station at Kenmore Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard, shut it down and the land was left vacant for decades after much of it was taken to expand the intersection.

Now, Amherst wants to sieze the land, potentially merging it with adjacent land for a park.

Catsimatidis said the land is unused because it isn't big enough for his company's gas station or convenience store mix because part of it was taken years ago to expand the intersection. He said the town wouldn't meet with him to talk about buying that town land to make the site large enough again for a business.

Catsimatidis said he would rather do business somewhere else.

"Business people have a choice of where to do business and we would rather do business in a business-friendly environment," he said. "I'm not pro-Republican or anti-Democrat. I've been a Democrat half my life and in Florida we deal with a lot of Democrats."

Down there in Florida, Catsimatidis said they call themselves "pro-business progressives." Currently, he is building a condo and hotel complex in St. Petersburg, FL, a $300 million investment, far from his base in high-tax Manhattan. The billionaire said the return on investment is better in a low-tax state like Florida.

"There's approximately 21 million people in New York State [and] approximately 21 million in Florida. There's no state or city taxes in Florida. There are 21 million people and the total budget for the whole state of Florida is $89 billion," he said.

The owner of a network of food stores in Manhattan and the oil refinery United Refinery, which feeds gasoline to his hundreds of Kwik Fill and Red Apple convenience stores, said one day New York will run out of taxpayers.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.