Public Safety Committee Doesn't Support New South Orange Emergency Shelter

South Orange is debating what should be included in the new Rescue Squad building when this one is torn down for a major development project at Valley and Third streets. Credits: Amy Kiste Nyberg

UPDATE 7:50 PM Feb. 5, 2014:
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – An emergency shelter space should not be included in the new South Orange Rescue Squad building, the village Public Safety Committee decided at its meeting Tuesday night.

The recommendation, which has support of all three trustees serving on the committee, is scheduled to be presented at Monday's Board of Trustees meeting, according to Trustee Sheena Collum, head of the committee. Trustees Mark Rosner and Walter Clarke also serve on the committee.

The matter was referred to the committee at the last Board of Trustees meeting (read story HERE). Village President Alex Torpey, who is the Office of Emergency Management coordinator and a member of the rescue squad, supports the idea of a second-story multi-purpose room that could double as a 40-bed emergency shelter.

Sign Up for E-News

Expanding the second story of the building to include a multi-purpose room would cost somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000, based on cost estimates, according to village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. But Torpey said the space is needed because the village’s current shelter sites are not adequate.

“We say we have emergency shelters with the (public) library and the Baird Center,” Torpey said. “But neither of them are up to code to be shelters. We say we have emergency shelters, but we’re not providing the things we say we’re providing.”

Among Torpey’s biggest concerns are the facts that neither buildings have a source of backup power and that in the event that the Rahway River were to flood, many residents would not be able to reach either location, according to a memo he sent to village trustees.

“The bifurcation of the village into two sides is, regardless of its particular timing, a significant public safety incident when it does occur,” the memo reads.  “Specifically, although some homes on the west side of the river can possibly take advantage of county resources for sheltering … homes on the East Side may not have access to those resources.”

The matter is not so cut-and-dried, though, with some members of the Public Safety Committee saying that Torpey has not adequately documented whether such a shelter is necessary.

“Knowing our taxes are already high, and knowing that we want to keep our taxes low, I’m not so quick to agree with the proposal,” said Andrew Boyarsky, the South Orange Community Emergency Response Team coordinator. “We need a better understanding of the demographics who will be using the shelter. For the $100,000 you’re proposing we spend, you could outfit two schools with enough generators and equipment to act as emergency shelters, which could serve more people than the rescue squad building.”

Rosner agreed, noting that South Orange’s public schools and other buildings are capable of serving almost 10 times the number people of the proposed shelter, and that $150,000 is not as insignificant a sum as Torpey made it sound. He also noted that there are other, longer-term options available that have a more significant “cost-to-benefit ratio.”

Others, however, do support Torpey's proposal, inlcuding police Chief Jim Chelel. 

“The two locations we have now are not ideal,” he said. “And that’s fine for now, because South Orange is an affluent community.  A lot of the residents can afford to sit out an emergency somewhere else or know people who they can stay with for a few days. But that’s not everyone, and maybe we do need a way to accommodate 20 or 30 people who need a shelter right now.”

Torpey noted that while he does not know the exact price of retrofitting existing buildings, he objects to the idea of “wasting nine months and four or five times the amount of money” to conduct the studies needed before any construction could get underway.

He also expressed concern about housing people in schools “without some extreme level of access control, which we do not have right now.”

“I understand the points Alex (Torpey) is making,” Collum said. "But my priority would be to see the funds go toward renovating police headquarters.”

Clarke said he feels similarly.

“One- or two-hundred thousand dollars is not a paltry sum, and I would rather see it be put to use on something we need more immediately,” he said.

The Board of Trustees will meet Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the South Orange Performing Arts Center main stage, with the open meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. 

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee and to include the name of village's CERT coordinator.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to clarify the cost of a second-story multi-purpose room on a new rescue squad building.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Columbia High School Principal's Removal Raises More Questions Than It Answers

The last Twitter post from Columbia High School principal Elizabeth Aaron is very telling. 

The four-year CHS schools chief, who was recently, surprisingly, reassigned to a vague “Principal on Special Assignment” post by the school district, was a Twitter regular on her @CougarPrincipal account. There she would often promote the school’s successes and notable staff and ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.



Maplewood Police Blotter - Stolen Vehicle in Maplewood Recovered by South Orange Police

July 18, 2018

July 11 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime during the early morning hours, a vehicle was stolen from a residence on the 400 block of Richmond Ave. The vehicle was recovered by the South Orange Police Department the same morning.

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Robberies Reported on July 5

July 2 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime over the previous two days, a U-Haul truck was stolen from a business on Newark Way.

July 4 - Theft from Auto; During the overnight hours an unsecured vehicle parked on Elberta Rd was entered and keys were stolen from it.

July 5 - Robberies; At approximately 1:30 a.m., a male was assaulted by two males ridding bicycles while he was walking on ...

Free 'Movies in the Park' on July 18 and August 23 in Maplewood

July 16, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Free "Movies in the Park" are planned for Wednesday, July 18, and Thursday, August 23, a program hosted by the Maplewood Police Department in conjunction with the Maplewood Recreation Department, the Maplewood Office of Cultural Affairs, SOMA Film Festival and SOMA Municipal Alliance.

The movie on July 18 will be The Incredibles, shown in Dehart Park, ...

National Weather Service Issues Heat Advisory Through 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17

NEW YORK, NY, - The National Weather Service issued a 'Heat Advisory' this morning for Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union and Hudson Counties in New Jersey. The heat advisory will remain in effect from noon Monday July 16, until 6 p.m. Tuesday July 17.

Extreme heat can cause illness and death among at- risk population who cannot stay cool. The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during ...

Upcoming Events


Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

River Barge Park & Marina, Carlstadt

Meadowlands Discovery Sunset Eco-Cruise

Green Travel

Fri, July 27, 6:30 PM

Calloway's Restaurant & Bar, Staffordville

Family Promise SOC Fundraiser at Calloway's

Food & Drink Giving Back


Fri, July 27, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Fri, July 27, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Statement From Emergency Committee to Reinstate Principal Aaron

July 10, 2018


We created a movement. We leveraged our collective 1,600 voices and forced the District leadership to sit with us today [Monday] and discuss the poorly communicated, weekend announcement that CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron was being reassigned.

Our meeting was a first step in both accountability and transparency as Dr. Ficarra revealed Principal ...

Coalition on Race Responds to Changes in School District Administrators

The Board of Trustees of the Community Coalition on Race seeks racial equity, integration, and excellence in education for all students in our schools. While the pace of change has been frustratingly slow, we have seen some progress. Yet, candidly, there are too many students of color who are not well served in SOMA, who still experience segregated classrooms and who still suffer from racial ...

Rutgers-Newark Athletic Field Renamed to Honor Frederick Douglass

July 22, 2018

NEWARK, NJ – Long before Rutgers University-Newark created an athletic field on University Avenue, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered an address in 1849 at a church that once stood there.

Rutgers Board of Governors approved a resolution to rename the field in honor of the time Douglass spent here. The field will now be called the Frederick Douglass ...

Those Boarded-Up Homes in the West Ward? Newark Has a Plan for Them.

NEWARK, NJ - The city is using the power of eminent domain to reduce the number of condemned homes and vacant lots scattered throughout the West Ward.

The redevelopment plan for the West Ward was introduced in 2016 and encompasses properties from the border of Irvington to South 13th Street between South Orange Avenue and 16th Avenue. One of the main goals of the plan is to support new ...

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

NJ Residents Take Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace - July 20 to July 26

July 22, 2018

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:          

Klondike Ice Cream Sandwiches 25.3oz $5.99
Driscoll’s Raspberries 6oz $2.99
Looza Juice 33.8floz $3.99
Meat Lasagna $7.99lb (Prep Food)
Almond Breeze Almond Milk 64floz $3.79
Black Angus Bone In Rib Steak $8.98lb ...

Woolley Home Solutions Building Has Unique Historical Stained Glass Window

Have you ever spotted this Stained Glass Window on our building? It's compliments of the first Methodist Church in town. The repairman saw our 1924 Autocar Truck parked outside and created this beautiful piece and installed it in our front window. The church was knocked down years ago and its location is now Walgreen's parking lot.

The church was originally built in 1836 when Maplewood ...

New Plumber Joins the Woolley Home Solutions Team

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Woolley team! Our new plumber, Oscar Buonafina, is an expert plumber with nearly a decade of industry experience serving New Jersey homeowners. He is also a NJ Master Plumber Since 2007. As a military veteran, Oscar truly understands hard work and commitment, and we’re so happy to bring him on board!

"I believe in service to people ...