At its sixth annual Business Awards dinner on Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Elks Lodge, the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce presented awards in 10 categories to local businesses, business people, and local legends such as Vinny Wassman, recognizing them for their achievements in the community. Mayor Elect Ravi Bhalla attended the event as well, saying he wants to be a friend to the business community.
Of the awards, Chamber President Richard Mackiewicz said there were 144 nominees in 10 categories, who were narrowed by the Chamber of Commerce to three finalists and then to a winner in each group.
Members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors presented the awards in front of roughly 225 business people, as dinner was catered by The Madison Bar & Grill.
This year’s winners were: Tishman Construction for Developer/ Builder of the Year; The Hoboken Public Library for Educational Provider of the Year, CSBK-Your Forever Bank for Financial Business of the Year, Ron Hine from the Fund for a Better Waterfront for Community Service Provider of the Year, and Sonny Caberwal of Newell Brandy for New Business/Businessperson of the Year. Real Estate Office of the Year went to Prime Real Estate Group and Restaurateur of the Year went to David and Wanda Jacey.
Other winners included Beth McGrath from Stevens Institute of Technology, who won the Hoboken Chamber Member of the Year award. Technology/Innovator of the Year went to Hoboken Smart City Group. The People’s Choice award went to Vinny Wassman, a 92 year old World War II and Korean War veteran.
At the dinner, Chamber of Commerce President Richard Mackiewicz urged everyone to shop locally.
“With the construction on Washington Street [there’s] a need for all of us to recognize the fact that we are failing family business,” said Mackiewicz. “So during the holiday season, by all means take a moment to shop locally. But as you do, speak to the shop owners, speak to the restaurant owners, speak to the people there and tell them that you are supporting them because you are supporting Hoboken business. By all means it is important, because they are going to be thankful to know that you are there for them. “
The city is undergoing the Washington Street Redesign Project. The $17.5 million project approved by an 8-1 council vote in 2016 will replace old water mains, patch potholes, and add safety features like bumpouts, timed pedestrian crossing signals, and ADA compliant ramps.
Various storeowners on Washington Street said last month that business is down at least 25 percent at some locations. Multiple businesses in town said they’ve been affected by the noise, lack of parking, lack of pedestrian traffic, and rerouted vehicular traffic during the project known as the Washington Street Redesign, which is set to be completed in July.
According to Mickiewicz, the Chamber of Commerce has hired a professional planner to come up with a white paper which they hope will provide guidance on the master plan reexamination from a pro business perspective, which will provide them with a roadmap to help advocate for other pro business endeavors in the future.
A friend to business
Current Councilman and Mayor Elect Ravi Bhalla also gave a few words during the awards dinner, in which he said he would be a friend to the Chamber and business community.
“I want to congratulate Hoboken Chamber of Commerce for its role through the years,” said Bhalla. “The way I see it in terms of the government’s role, the government has a critical role in the future of the business community of Hoboken. My role as mayor is to make sure you succeed in business and to create the conditions on the ground to set you up for success. You can count on me as your mayor, as your friend, as a dear friend of the business community, because you truly are the life blood of what makes Hoboken vibrant.”
Bhalla is closely allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, whose administration has been criticized at times for restrictive regulations on opening businesses.
Bhalla addressed specific areas of concern.
“Starting on January 1, we are going to get Washington Street paved,” he said. “That’s going to be the first priority.”
He said that there would be more opportunities for small business in the future in the town’s redevelopment zones.
“What I really want to make sure is that with the mayor’s office and City Council, we have a partnership working together not working against each other,” said Bhalla. “You can count on me as a friend in 2018.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.