My name is Joseph E. Branco. I was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and grew up in Bedford Gardens, a project-based section 8 complex. From a young age, I had an innate drive to get a good education and be independent. While I grew up in a loving home, I knew the only way to achieve my goals was to make it happen on my own, beginning with finding a way to pay for a high school outside my neighborhood. My first job was at the age of 12 delivering fish on my bicycle for a fish market on Lee Avenue and then I spent almost 10 years working at Giando on the Water, a restaurant in Williamsburg. I started as a valet, parking cars, and ultimately worked in every position including ad hoc assignments like painting the kitchen and rebuilding a fence. This job enabled me to pay for high school at La Salle Academy in New York City all on my own. Giando’s is where I spent much of my teen years through young adulthood. Most of the staff were first-generation Italian immigrants. Their influence on my life reinforced the values of hard work and perseverance.
I was the first in my family to attend college. I was accepted to NYU through a program that helped low-income minorities attend and successfully graduate from New York University. (Higher Education Opportunity Program) I remember that first orientation where they told us, if you take advantage of this opportunity and graduated from NYU, your children will not be eligible for this program. These words stuck with me because they brought me back to that young child who set a goal to get a good education and become independent.
I graduated with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. After graduation, I held various positions including Assistant Beverage Director at the Plaza Hotel and Director of Operations for Merlot Bar & Grill and Iridium Jazz Club. Answering a random phone call at Merlot Bar & Grill one evening led to an opportunity for me to buy a business at the age of 26, a nightclub and event space in Hoboken. That was 25 years ago and, since then, I have assembled a substantial real estate portfolio and taken on additional business ventures including two other taverns. I am fully retired from the bar industry, but I do occasionally consult on liquor license issues. This business provided me with the opportunity to learn so much about business, marketing, ordinances and laws, public safety, people management, and fiscal responsibility. Leaving this business gave me the opportunity to spend quality time with my family and allowed me more time for service work in my community and abroad.
I have been an active member in the community of Hoboken and Jersey City, regularly helping residents while volunteering my time to countless fundraisers, community events, and elections. I was the recipient of public assistance in the subsidy that helped pay our rent growing up to the program that provided me the opportunity to attend NYU. Giving back and being involved in my local community is just woven into my DNA because I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities bestowed on me.
Beyond volunteering my time, I have held numerous positions in the community including: Chairman of the Hoboken Republican Party, Trustee for the Non-Profit Passaic Affordable Housing Collation. Former Hudson County Director of the New Jersey License Beverage Association, Former Board member of the Jersey City Rotary Foundation and past President; volunteer at the Hoboken Community Panty. Annual sponsorship of Hoboken Youth Soccer, and Youth Basketball teams.
One of my greatest joys is organizing and participating in domestic and international service projects. Over the years, I spearheaded a project to bring 3 Hoboken Police cars to Villalba Puerto Rico (Hoboken’s Sister city) Along with the donation of police cars, I also collected kids sporting equipment to bring to the kids of Villalba. With my family, we incorporate service work when visiting other countries and have collected school supplies to bring to schools In Bocas Del Torro Panama, and Cabarete Dominican Republic while there, we also spend time with the children. Currently, I am working with local and El Salvadorian officials on a service project to help a local community called Santa Ana in El Salvador.
During the COVID lockdown, I assisted the city of Hoboken by joining a group of volunteers to deliver meals to the senior buildings 3 days a week. During the lockdown the city had to cancel the annual Spaghetti Dinner and I worked with Leo Pelligrini and a team of volunteers to deliver 825 spaghetti dinners to all the senior buildings.
I continue to be an active community member and volunteer because I enjoy giving back, I want to be an advocate for our community to make sure our residents get the services they deserve.
I have resided in Hoboken since 2001 with my wife Jennifer and our two sons, Joseph Jr. and Emilio.