Annual Celebration Honors 4 Friends of the Hackensack River And The Preservation Of The Empire Tract Wetlands
Nearly 200 guests joined the Trustees and staff of Hackensack Riverkeeper at its fifth annual Awards Celebration and Sustainable SeafoodFest. Public officials, business leaders and environmental leaders joined with supporters from across New Jersey in honoring:
• Robert R. Ceberio, Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, who was recognized for Excellence in Public Service and for his inspired leadership of the NJMC;
•Dr. Beth Ravit, Rutgers University research scientist, who was honored for Excellence in Philanthropy for her personal support as well as her inspiration to others to support the Hackensack River’s restoration;
• George Aronson, professional photographer renowned for his stunning portrayals of New Jersey’s natural heritage, who was recognized for Excellence in Media & the Arts;
• Peter Shapiro, a Demarest junior high school student, who is the 2004 recipient of the Lisa G. Ryan Outstanding Volunteer Award for his commitment to the work of Hackensack Riverkeeper that began with his Bar Mitzvah service project.
In addition to the honorees, the event celebrated a major conservation milestone - the preservation of the Empire Tract and its 587 acres of undeveloped wetlands - a preservation that was finalized on October 5, 2004. (See related story, page 1.)
This year’s theme of Sustainable Seafood was supported by Whole Foods Market of Edgewater, NJ. The entire menu consisted of seafood from sustainable fisheries, thanks to Hackensack Riverkeeper Trustee Ellie Spray, who is the catering manager at Whole Foods. “We are so grateful to Ellie, who helped come up with the theme of Sustainable Seafood, and created a tremendous menu around it,” said Captain Bill Sheehan, executive director of Hackensack Riverkeeper. “She also worked closely with her seafood suppliers and got many of them to donate their specialties.”
Robert R. Ceberio
Excellence in Public Service
Robert R. Ceberio has been the Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) since July 2002. He is responsible for a $30 million annual budget.
Last year, he led the NJMC’s staff in revising the Meadowlands District’s Master Plan, Land Use Regulations, and the introducing the Meadowlands Mobility 2030 Transportation Plan. The new Master Plan preserves 8,400 acres of open space and targets polluted and blighted areas for more than $5.5 billion worth of redevelopment.
Mr. Ceberio was involved in the acquisition of more than 2,000 acres of wetlands for open space preservation, the creation of the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute, and the development of trails and parks.
Under the NJMC’s Smart Growth agenda, he directed the design and implementation of 10 redevelopment projects throughout the Meadowlands region. Mr. Ceberio was also involved in the NJMC’s planning for the largest brownfield redevelopment project in New Jersey, converting seven abandoned landfills into green redevelopment areas. The first phase of this redevelopment began this spring.
Mr. Ceberio also assisted the Board of Commissioners in the development of a Municipal Assistance Program, which provides property tax relief for the District’s municipalities. Under the program more than $5.1 million has been granted to Meadowlands municipalities for flood control, the purchase of public works equipment for a regional co-op, passive and active municipal recreational facilities, and police and fire equipment.
Dr. Beth Ravit, Excellence in Philanthropy
In 1999, she met Captain Bill Sheehan at a public hearing and began volunteering as a fundraiser for Hackensack Riverkeeper. She initiated both the annual awards event and the corporate canoe sponsorship program, raising thousands for Hackensack Riverkeeper.
After 20 years as a successful retail executive, Beth returned to school to earn a graduate degree in environmental science. Her goal was to support grassroots organizations such as Hackensack Riverkeeper with sound scientific research. In June of this year, at Rutgers University, she successfully defended her environmental science Ph.D. thesis, which is largely based on research conducted in the Hackensack Meadowlands.
Prior to her thesis defense, Dr. Ravit secured a grant from Rutgers University to develop the Rutgers Environmental Research Clinic. This Clinic will bring graduate student researchers from multiple scientific disciplines into “real world” environmental projects, allowing them to work with and support NGO groups. Today the Environmental Research Clinic is currently working on two projects in the Hackensack River watershed. After Dr. Ravit’s presentation to the NJ Wetlands Mitigation Council, Rutgers was awarded $100,000 to support three graduate researchers to work on the 20-acre Teaneck Creek wetlands restoration project. The second project is in the Meadowlands, where Rutgers honors students are working with Riverkeeper and Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic students to achieve the best possible clean up of a Superfund site.
Excellence in Media/Arts
George Aronson enjoyed a successful career in corporate Information Technology before he decided to become a full-time nature photographer, advocate for open space preservation, lecturer on environmental topics and fine-art printer. His photography has put him in the forefront of efforts to preserve Sterling Forest in nearby Orange County, N.Y., and the N.J. Highlands-comprising portions of seven North Jersey counties and containing vast and irreplaceable treasures of drinking water supplies, forests, mountains, and critical wildlife habitat.
His work has appeared in dozens of national, regional, and local magazines, books, newsletters, annual reports and studies. One of the more recent was the 2002 follow-up to the 1992 study (also illustrated by Aronson’s images) of the N.Y.-N.J. Highlands Region conducted by the U.S. Forest Service.
His extensive coverage of Sterling Forest has earned him world-wide attention and appearances in major publications including National Geographic (August 1997), Audubon (December 1996), Defenders [of Wildlife] (Fall 1997), Planning (October 1998), and others. His Sterling Forest photos were used to lobby Congress in fund-raising campaigns leading to major land purchases there.
The Eastman Kodak Company published nearly 20 of his images in their Digital Photography-An Introduction to New Technology (2000). Major philanthropic institutions have used his photographs to enhance their annual reports. These include the William Penn, the Victoria, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundations.
Lisa G. Ryan Outstanding Volunteer Award
According to his parents, Peter Shapiro always showed an appreciation of the environment, especially the ecology of his community. When he was a little boy, Pete observed the world around him with an almost scientific intensity. Last fall, Pete chose to volunteer at Hackensack Riverkeeper as part of a community service mitzvah project for his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth-El in Closter, NJ. He quickly learned that the real value of his efforts was in helping the people of our watershed. After his requirements were met, he continued volunteering simply because he enjoyed it. We not only appreciated his work, we came to look upon him as one of our own - a shipmate.
Pete has lived in Demarest his whole life with his parents, Margaret and Steve. He has a sister, Carolyn, 11, a brother, Cassel, 24, and a dog, Nicky. He is in the eighth grade at Demarest Middle School. Pete enjoys reading and creative writing, history, science, music and ice hockey. Pete is a bantam with the Clarkstown Capitals, an A level travel ice hockey team.
Surprisingly, Pete doesn’t much like boats and he probably would not have volunteered if he had to spend time on the river each week instead of in the office. However, his appreciation for the work of Hackensack Riverkeeper - his own work - will surely help him to rise above any “mal de rive” and we look forward to taking Pete and his family to meet the river that he’s helped us to keep.
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