Friday, December 08, 2006

Sitt Happens: Meet Brooklyn's Demolition Man

Who is Coney Island and Red Hook developer Joe Sitt? Like most developers, except for a certain New Yorker who attaches his name to all his projects, Mr. Sitt keeps a relatively low profile. But we found a couple of items written about the man who proposes to rebuild Coney Island and whose firm is demolishing the Revere Sugar refinery in Red Hook. Mr. Sitt has been profiled in US News and World Report in an article headlined "Urban Makeover Artist" and did an interesting Q&A with Inc. , called "How I Did It," published in January. There is also quite a bit about Sitt in New York Magazine's 2005 article on the Coney Island "Glam Rock" makeover.

Mr. Sitt, who is 42 and the founder and CEO of Thor Equities, primarily known for its development of urban retail malls, grew up in Bensonhurst. US News said that Thor is "focused on bringing retailers to blighted, urban areas of primarily low-income residents." A bit more:
He started the company in 1986 when he was just 21, with the purchase of a plot of land in the Bronx. He built a one-story retail building that eventually attracted Rite Aid Pharmacy and Payless ShoeSource. Today, the company owns more than 4 million square feet of real estate in cities nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, and Atlanta. Thor Equities buys and develops primarily retail properties and consults with stores on their urban expansion strategies.
Mr. Sitt Sitt founded Ashley Stewart, a big clothing chain catering to African-American professional women, in 1991 and sold it in 1998.

He told Inc. that he named Thor Equities after the Norse god. "I was a comic-book collector and Thor was the Norse god and the comic-book character that protected planet Earth from the monsters that were destroying the buildings on the planet. That fit in with my concept of being the protector of the cities." The first property that Mr. Sitt purchased was on East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx, and it's clear that he saw inner city markets as being lucrative ahead of some his competitors. You can read the rest for yourself, but a couple of points are worth making here. Mr. Sitt considers Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who he knew, to be a role model. He says of Walton:
He was a monstrously big person, and he's had a lot of influence in my life. He was altruistic and socially conscious about his business and making the world a better place, and I've tried very hard to keep that ethos.
And he says that Coney Island is a "brand name":
We're nostalgic not just from an emotional point of view, but a return point of view. Palmer House is 130 years old; Coney Island is a 150-year-old project. After 150 years, it's been able to establish an immeasurable brand name.
Just a taste of the man who is well on his way to becoming one of the most talked about--and increasingly controversial--figures in the world of Brooklyn development.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice roundup. i'm glad to learn a bit about the man behind thor equities. at least now we can put a face on the bulldozers currently leveling the sugar factory...

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't trust anyone who calls Sam Walton a role model.... yikes.

7:38 PM  

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