Newcomers Day at the South Orange library brought together residents both new and old. Credits: John Lopiano
Villagers who have been honored as Villager of the Month over the years gather for a photo at Newcomers Day at the South Orange library on Sunday. Credits: John Lopiano
South Orange residents at Newcomers Day learn about different village organizations on Sunday at the South Orange library. Credits: John Lopiano
South Orange Newcomers Day Draws Crowd
Sunday, September 23, 2012 • 8:15pm
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Village President Alex Torpey welcomed South Orange’s newest residents and announced plans to increase transparency in government when he spoke to a large crowd at the South Orange Newcomers Welcome Party on Sunday afternoon.
The event, which was hosted by the South Orange Board of Trustees in conjunction with the South Orange Community Relations Committee, took place in the South Orange Public Library between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and was open to all village residents.
New village residents were encouraged to attend in order to become better acquainted with the various village organizations and local politicians. Among those organizations in attendance were the South Orange Lions Club, the Jersey Animal Coalition and the Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood.
There was also a small ceremony to welcome former South Orange Villagers of the Month, the winners of a monthly award given to villagers who go above and beyond volunteering their time in town.
According to CRC co-Chairwoman Janis Zaveri, South Orange welcomed approximately 300 new residents this year, making this an important event for the village. The welcome party has been a village tradition since its inception in 1980 and in previous years has been held at The Baird, South Orange’s recreational center, and at the South Orange Village Hall.
“We want this event to act as a mosaic for the village’s newcomers,” Zaveri said, as she pointed out the approximately 30 village organizations on hand to give out information.
One of the village’s newest residents, Dan Pawlus, who recently moved to South Orange from Evanston, Ill., with his wife and three children, is already enjoying life in the village and noted how great the welcome party was for families.
“I’m impressed with how integrated the town is with everything and how beautiful it is here,” Pawlus said. “I came today to find out more about the town and what kind of things they have for the kids. I love it so far.”
At around 3 p.m., the village president spoke to the crowd.
Torpey, who grew up in South Orange and has been village president since winning the May 2011 election, expressed his appreciation for the village and urged the newcomers to take advantage of the many opportunities before them, whether it means eating at one of the many local restaurants downtown or volunteering some time at the library.
“Having a great library, having a great police department and fire department and other organizations as part of the town is important,” Torpey said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to the people that live here, and not just the people that live here, but the people who get involved.”
The village president also announced plans to continue to follow through on his campaign promise of more transparency with a fully redesigned village website where residents can find out more about board meetings, village news and budgets.
Along with the updated website, Torpey plans to better utilize social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to fully integrate the villagers into the happenings of their local government.
“We’re also looking into an online 311 system, which would be really cutting edge for a town our size,” Torpey said. “If you see a pothole or a streetlight out, you can take a picture of it on your smart phone and send that to our Public Works Department so it can be added to our queue of things to fix.”
The resolution to update the website, as well as enact some of the other proposed ideas, will be up for discussion at Monday’s meeting of the Village Board of Trustees, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.