Author and Hudson Reporter senior staff writer Al Sullivan was one of three honorees at an annual awards celebration hosted Monday night by the Friends of the Hackensack Riverkeeper, a non-profit environmental organization based in Teaneck.
Hackensack Riverkeeper is one of 70 Riverkeeper programs across the country that come under the umbrella of the Water Keeper Alliance. The Water Keeper Alliance, of which Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is president, hires environmentalists to watch over the nation's waterways. Hackensack Riverkeeper's mission is to protect, preserve and restore the Hackensack River and its living resources. The group relies on the private sector for funding.
Al Sullivan was honored for his nine years of coverage of river issues as a reporter for the Hudson Reporter chain's Secaucus Reporter newspaper (the Hackensack flows through the town of Secaucus) and for other weekly newspapers. Also, Sullivan published a book this year, Everyday People (Rutgers University, 2001), containing dozens of profiles of New Jersey residents, including Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan.
Honored along with Sullivan Monday night were Kerry Kirk Pflugh, the Raritan Bureau Chief for the Division of Watershed Management at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and ShopRite, which funds Riverkeeper's "eco-cruise" program that gives students and teachers tours of the Hackensack.
Besides receiving a plaque from Riverkeeper, Sullivan received a framed resolution honoring him from the New Jersey General Assembly.
"Al Sullivan, a highly esteemed member of his community, will be honored and saluted in recognition for his outstanding efforts and achievements in enlightening the citizens of this state and this nation about the environment," the resolution read. "Al Sullivan serves with distinction as a journalist, storyteller, and author who has been covering the Meadowlands area since 1992."
Captain Bill Sheehan said that often, during interviews with Sullivan, he comes away having learned more about an issue from talking to Sullivan than Sullivan does from him.
"A lot of people consider weekly newspapers insignificant," Sheehan said. "Everybody likes to say they read the New York Times... [but] if you want to know what's going on in your hometown, usually the only way is through your local weekly paper."
The event's keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, could not make the event because of the situation in Afghanistan. But he sent a letter stating, "Eighty percent of our rivers, lakes and streams are unfishable and unswimmable. We have to protect the potential and the resources of our waterways. That means all the work done by Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan and people like Al Sullivan, Kerry Kirk Pflugh and [event auctioneer] Joe Bartlett, and by corporations like ShopRite, is absolutely critical."
Sullivan lives in Jersey City and once lived in Hoboken.