In 2005, a coalition of several Hoboken community groups began selecting five honorees every year who embody the spirit of civic duty.
Helen Manogue, president of the Quality of Life Coalition, said that at first, she wasn’t sure they would have enough candidates for the awards every year. But indeed, they have.
The QLC Thanksgiving Awards are bestowed on people who volunteer their talents and resources to better the community.
This year the recipients were Larry Henriques, chairman of the board at the Jubilee Center, which helps local kids; Toni Tomarazzo, a local advocate for fiscal responsibility; Ron Hine, who played instrumental roles in several waterfront and development issues; John DePalma, posthumously, for his creation of the concerts series in Church Square Park and for other volunteer efforts; and Daniel Tumpson, a longtime advocate for rent control and an opponent of tax abatements.
“Somewhere up there, he knows what’s going on.” – Loretta DePalma
Working on retirement
“Larry Henriques had a retirement plan: making Hoboken a better place,” QLC board member Ines Garcia Keim said while giving him the Community Awareness Award Thursday night.
From Larchmont, N.Y., Henriques came to Hoboken in 1988. In 2000, he retired from his 34-year career at Johnson & Johnson as a logistics director. His volunteerism began as a tutor for third-graders at the All Saints’ Day School Homework Club, which became his inspiration for the Jubilee Center.
“He had never been to Hoboken’s west side before,” Keim said. “He worked with a youngster with a stuttering problem and discovered the joy of having a specific, positive impact on his community.”
He started the Jubilee Center, 601 Jackson St., in 2003 as a safe haven for children from public housing. Funded solely on community donations, the center provides activities and homework help to 85 children for over three hours every day.
Henriques said the children are “victims of circumstance” who deserve the “opportunity to improve.”
“One of the things we teach them is how to respect each other,” he said.
Garcia-Keim said Henriques would like to make the Jubilee center a 24-hour-per-day service.
“The more retired he gets,” she said, “the more he gets done.”
Minding the till
By day a regulatory lawyer at UBS, by night a local budget hawk, Tomarazzo had some experience with activism. She successfully rallied against state privatization of a retired veterans’ home in Paramus years ago.
But her activism in Hoboken was sparked by the large tax increase last year. She was the first to respond to a call to action in a letter to the editor in the Hoboken Reporter, and so began a group called the Hoboken Tax Revolt.
She exposed issues related to tax abatement agreements and demanded information for public benefit in a firm but friendly manner.
“Her legal training has honed her skills in digging into technical material, analyzing legal regulations and making a persuasive case,” according to QLC board member Melissa Abernathy, who gave Tomarazzo the Civic Award. “These skills – along with her gracious manners, tenacity, and sense of humor in dealing with local officials – have made her an invaluable member of several Hoboken community groups.”
Tomarazzo thanked the community she has worked with. “Sometimes you’re opposed on a certain issue; sometimes you work together to get something done,” she said. “I’ve met the greatest people in the greatest town in the greatest country.”
Tomarazzo also announced that she was able to work with Henriques and her employer to secure a $15,000 grant to the Jubilee Center from UBS.
Saved the waterfront
Hine has been widely lauded as the activist who did his homework.
He began as an advocate for affordable housing and assisted welfare recipients to get the benefits due to them. He worked as a grant writer for the New York City Fire Department, and also was involved in fire scene investigations.
When houses in Hoboken began to catch fire suspiciously in the 1980s, he got to work. He found a certain clause in a developer contract that he dug up that demanded the property be “delivered vacant.”
Unfortunately, even with his advocacy, “the genesis of not even one fire was determined,” according to QLC board member Joan Abel, who gave Hine the Renee Steinhagen Public Advocacy Award. “After two years of community exasperation and anger, the fires stopped.”
Hine also took action when the city was entering into a deal with the Port Authority for the southern waterfront. He used initiative and referendum techniques to defeat the deal, so successfully that the state legislation banned the use of referendum for land use issues.
Hine attributed his success to just being a part of a great group of people and being in the right place at the right time.
“Hoboken is just an extraordinary place to be involved,” he said. “So many things are possible.”
Music and history
DePalma, who passed away earlier this year, was a lifelong Hoboken resident and deputy city clerk.
He was a founding member of the Hoboken Historical Museum, its second president, and a Hoboken history buff in general.
“[He was] a stickler for accuracy,” according to John Branciforte, QLC board member, who presented DePalma’s Community Service Award to his friend and city historian Leonard Luizzi.
DePalma sparked a revival of Church Square Park and created the summer concert series there.
“He provided an opportunity for local musicians to perform for friends and family outside of a club,” Branciforte said. “John did these things with no ulterior motive other than a love for Hoboken.”
DePalma’s mother Loretta was in attendance and thanked everyone on his behalf.
“Somewhere up there,” she said, “he knows what’s going on.”
Dissecting the numbers
Tumpson’s background is in computational fluid dynamics, and he uses his scientific mind to help keep the system of government running smoothly.
He has strongly opposed changes to rent control laws, even though his attempts weren’t always successful.
Overdevelopment irked him, and he has recently produced a mathematical formula that he says proves that tax abatement deals for developers raise taxes for everyone else.
He has presented his findings to some City Council members and has created change.
A law was passed last year requiring a detailed analysis of tax abatements to be made public before the city approves anything.
“Dan has been a constant commenter on government activity as he continues to demand the right of the public to be heard and to have effective input into the workings of that government,” according to Manogue, who presented the Hoboken Citizen Activist Award to Tumpson. “Dan’s personal mode of attaining that goal is to challenge and prod those on the planning and zoning boards as well as the City Council and mayor to understand the seriousness of their decisions. He urges a more thoughtful and scientific approach and he intends to keep pushing for that.”
Before reciting some of the more technical aspects of his research, Tumpson stepped to microphone and simply said, “Wow.”
A surprise attendee of the awards ceremony was county Freeholder Anthony Romano, whom Manogue said was the first elected official to come to the awards.
Romano said he was happy to attend and brought commendations for the winners from state legislators Senator Brian Stack, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, and Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez.
The award recipients are chosen by the nine-member QLC board: Manogue, Abernathy, Branciforte, Keim, Abel, Bob DuVal, Paul Neshamkin, Bill Tobias, and J.D. Capuano.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.