Gus Milano, president and chief operating officer of Hartz Mountain Industries, speaks during the Meadowlands Chamber’s Legacy Awards Reception on Oct. 12. — Courtesy: Meadowlands Chamber
By Joshua Burd
If there was any doubt about the commercial real estate industry’s impact on northern New Jersey, this year’s Meadowlands Chamber Legacy Awards Reception was a clear reminder.
The organization hosted the annual gala on Oct. 12 while marking the 50th anniversary of its founding. Fittingly, it also unveiled a list of the 50 most influential people in the region’s history — including more than a dozen iconic developers and real estate service providers, from Jerry Gottesman and Jon and Peter Hanson to Gretchen Wilcox and Dave Gockel.
That’s not to mention two of the event’s four headline honorees — Gus Milano of Hartz Mountain Industries and Jaime Weiss of Weiss Realty Co.
“If you think about what the Meadowlands was in 1973 and you think about what the Meadowlands is and represents in 2023 — 50 years later — it’s all about real estate development,” said Jim Kirkos, the Meadowlands Chamber’s CEO and president. “The real estate community has created tens of thousands of jobs and has created what’s soon to be a world class destination and one of the most recognizable places, perhaps in the United States. And that has to do with the innovators and real estate developers.”
The Legacy Awards drew a crowd of nearly 450 to The Venetian in Garfield for a program that also honored Peter Unanue of Goya Foods and Tony Santarelli, the retired president of Mikasa. Meantime, the chamber’s “Meadow of Honor” recognized 50 leaders in business, government and other sectors for their outsized role in building the Meadowlands region.
Real estate executives who made the list reflected on the region’s transformation.
“When I embarked on my real estate career 64 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine the changes in store for the Meadowlands over the next seven decades,” said NAI James E. Hanson’s Peter Hanson, chairman of the Teterboro-based real estate services firm, who was part of the Meadow of Honor list. “I am deeply honored to stand among my esteemed colleagues who have played a pivotal role in shaping the Meadowlands over the past five decades. I also extend my congratulations to the Meadowlands Chamber for their tireless work to foster business prosperity, enhance residents’ quality of life, and provide unique experiences for visitors.”
Other industry real estate and construction industry leaders in the Meadow of Honor included:
- Inez & Barney Branca – Bergen Engineering
- Fletch Creamer Sr. – J. Fletcher Creamer & Son
- Anthony “Babe” Dinallo – Terminal Construction
- Ghermezian family – American Dream
- Sal Fichera & Butch Giardina – F&G Mechanical
- Dave Gockel – Langan Engineering
- Jerry Gottesman – Edison Properties
- Jeff Gural – Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment
- Jon Hanson – The Hampshire Cos.
- Arthur Imperatore Sr. – NY Waterway
- Charles Klatskin – Klatskin & Co.
- George W. Newman – Allied Junction
- Larry Russo – Russo Development
- Joseph Sanzari – J. Sanzari Construction
- Leonard Stern – Hartz Mountain
- Gretchen Wilcox – G.S. Wilcox & Co.
In one example, Kirkos pointed to Hartz Mountain’s influence on the town of Secaucus and its development of massive mixed-use destinations such as Mill Creek and Harmon Meadow, along with a host of other industrial and retail property. That legacy was in focus as the chamber honored Milano, who has spent more than four decades with the development firm.
The same was true for Weiss, a fellow honoree and president of Moonachie-based Weiss Realty, whose six-decade career has included representing Hartz and other major developers in the region.
“Real estate development has been transformational to many of these communities,” Kirkos added. “And the Meadowlands today is known to be this great warehouse and logistics hub, a center for light manufacturing and the back office to some of the biggest companies in the country.”
The full Meadow of Honor list is available here.