The Wiseguy and the Wetlands

A Brooklyn Waterfront Dream House Becomes the Target of an Environmental Probe

With his thriving automotive businesses, Rosatti has been a key source of cash and no-show jobs, according to FBI memos. At one point, Rosatti pledged $50,000 to the insurgent Colombo faction headed by Victor Orena. But he turned down an Orena request to provide autos for hit teams prowling the metropolitan area in search of supporters of Orena's rival, Carmine ''The Snake'' Persico. An FBI informant report details how Rosatti, during the Colombo war, flew to an Oklahoma prison to meet with his jailed Mafia superior to discuss the street fighting. Another memo describes how fellow Colombo members joked about a no-show job given to Orena's son Victor at a Rosatti dealership. ''You're the only salesman that never sells any cars and makes money,'' one hood told the younger Orena.

While a dozen other Colombo figures were murdered during the two-year family war, Rosatti succeeded in staying out of harm's way, though he was arrested by the FBI on a gun rap in 1994. Since his criminal record included a mid-'70s attempted grand larceny conviction (for boosting cars), Rosatti was charged as a felon for possession of a gun. Though that rap could have netted Rosatti several years in prison, he pleaded guilty and escaped, remarkably, with no jail time, one year's probation, and a $5000 fine. Compared to other Colombo war casualties--some dead, many imprisoned--the car salesman got the best deal on the lot. Between his felony convictions, Rosatti successfully maintained a low profile, avoiding arrest while building a booming car business that started 20 years ago with his purchase of an Oldsmobile dealership in Flatbush.

Rosatti's biggest financial windfall came last year when Republic Industries, a publicly held conglomerate, paid the hoodlum $33 million last summer for two thriving Florida auto dealerships.

Republic, whose chief executive is Wayne Huizenga, bought Hollywood Honda and Hollywood Kia from Rosatti in an all-cash transaction, according to a Republic spokesperson. Huizenga, owner of the Florida Marlins, Miami Dolphins, and Florida Panthers sports franchises, purchased Rosatti's businesses as part of a dealership buying binge. The former Blockbuster Video CEO--he sold that company to Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion--wants to build a nationwide network of new-and used-car dealers.

Rosatti continues to operate Brooklyn's Plaza Auto Mall, a bustling automotive supermarket featuring Honda, Kia, Mazda, Dodge, Saab, Acura, GMC Trucks, and Pontiac dealerships. He also sells used cars.

While splitting time between New York and Florida, Rosatti no longer calls National Drive home. He sold his Mill Basin mansion for about $3 million to Galina Anissimova, a Russian-born real estate broker. As part of the deal, Anissimova, who moved into the waterfront palace last year, required Rosatti to place about $200,000 in escrow to cover any settlement payments with state environmental regulators.

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