Bergen County Executive Tedesco, NJSEA CEO Hasenbalg, and Ramsey Outdoor Stores honored at 20th Anniversary Gala
Over three hundred dignitaries and other well-wishers joined Captain Bill Sheehan, Trustees and staff of Hackensack Riverkeeper today at the organization’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Gala at Florentine Gardens in River Vale, NJ. In addition to honoring individuals and institutions supportive of Riverkeeper’s mission, this year’s gala also celebrated Sheehan’s 1997 founding of the clean water advocacy organization.
“Two decades ago, I had a lot of hopes and dreams as well as a ton of concerns and fears over the fate of the Hackensack River,” said Sheehan. “And I couldn’t wait for someone else to step up and do the right thing by the river; so when Bobby Kennedy, Jr. wrote and asked me to make application to start Hackensack Riverkeeper I did.”
Since 1997, much as changed within the river’s 210-square mile watershed and within its political landscape as well. For example, the 8,400 acres of wetlands and waterways within the Meadowlands District are protected, as are 3,300 acres of SUEZ Water NJ-owned woods and wetlands in the river’s Upper Watershed. There are still issues of pollution and development pressure to contend with but even they have changed greatly over the past twenty years. To a great extent those changes have come as a result of Hackensack Riverkeeper’s ever-expanding strategy of environmental action, advocacy, education, and when necessary, litigation. In many ways, Hackensack Riverkeeper’s 2017 honorees represent the culmination of that strategy. They are:
James Tedesco III, Excellence in Public Service Award
Bergen County Executive Tedesco was honored for his commitment to improving the county’s environment including its 10,000 acres of parkland; and for the reinvigoration of the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. A native of Paramus, NJ where he served two terms as mayor, Mr. Tedesco was elected County Executive in 2014.
Wayne Hasenbalg, Esq., Excellence in Public Service Award
Mr. Hasenbalg was honored for his expert leadership of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, successor to the NJ Meadowlands Commission, since 2012; and for his many years of devoted and effective public service. He has steadfastly maintained the agency’s commitment to the 2004 Meadowlands Master Plan, which protects the District’s wetlands from development.
Ramsey Outdoor Stores, Corporate Environmental Stewardship Award
CEO Stuart Levine and his team were honored for their longstanding support of Hackensack Riverkeeper, as well as many other conservation causes across northern New Jersey including Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the NY/NJ Trail Conference. The Bergen County-based outfitter and its staff of experts have served outdoorspeople of all description since 1953.
Among the dignitaries who attended were State Senators Gerald Cardinale (R-39) and Bob Gordon (D-38); Bergen County Freeholder Chair Tracy Silna Zur and Freeholders Mary Amoroso, Thomas Sullivan and Steven Tanelli (D); and Mayors John Birkner of Westwood (D), Ray Cywinski of Demarest (R), James Cassella of East Rutherford (R), George Fosdick of Ridgefield Park (I), and Ann Subrizi of New Milford, NJ (R). Numerous other public officials and candidates for political office also attended the event.
Private sector leaders in attendance included: Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce President James Kirkos, Inserra Supermarkets President Lawrence Inserra, Jr., Coachworks Ltd. President (and Riverkeeper Trustee) Virginia Korteweg, JMS Sanzari President & CEO Joseph Sanzari, SUEZ New Jersey Vice President Richard Henning, PSEG Environmental Policy Manager Russ Furnari, and Bergen County real estate mogul Donald Nuckel. Rank and file members and leaders from the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, Bergen County Central Trades and Labor Council, and Local 534 of the Utility Workers of America attended as well.
Among Hackensack Riverkeeper’s colleagues in conservation who attended were Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi, Ducks Unlimited NJ State Chair Charles Stelling, NY/NJ Baykeeper Debbie Mans, Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin, and Hudson River Fisherman’s Association Vice President Gil Hawkins. Former Riverkeeper staffers Kathy Urffer and Lisa Ryan also joined in the festivities along with all current staffers and Trustees.
“It was incredibly gratifying to see so many people – from movers and shakers to our dedicated supporters and volunteers – joining together to show their appreciation of our honorees and to celebrate twenty years of clean water advocacy,” said Sheehan. “People often thank me personally for the work of the organization but there’s no way I could do all of this alone. It’s a total team effort.”
As in previous years, the 2017 celebration featured special guest host Brian Thompson, New Jersey correspondent for NBC-4 New York who kept the evening’s festivities on schedule. Later in the evening, Thompson was joined by former NJ Meadowlands Commission Executive Director (and current Riverkeeper Trustee) Robert Ceberio as celebrity auctioneers.
Major event sponsors included Inserra Supermarkets, Xchange at Secaucus Junction, Hackensack Meridian Health, PSE&G, SUEZ, Bergen County Utilities Authority, Ramsey Outdoor Stores and Whole Foods Market.
Founded in 1997 by Captain Bill Sheehan, Hackensack Riverkeeper employs a fourfold strategy of environmental action, advocacy, education and litigation in its mission to protect, preserve and restore the Hackensack River. It is the only environmental organization focused on the entire Hackensack River Watershed.