West Orange New Jersey

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West Orange is a suburbantownship in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 46,207, an increase of 1,264 (+2.8%) from the 44,943 counted in the 2000 Census. West Orange is both an inner-ring suburb of Newark (the seat of Essex County, and New Jersey's largest city) and a commuter suburb of New York City; it is approximately 12 miles west of Manhattan. West Orange is well known for having been home to the inventor Thomas Edison, who also maintained a laboratory and workshop in town.

West Orange was originally part of the Native American Hackensack clan's territory, for over 10,000 years. The Hackensack were a phratry of the Unami tribe of the Leni Lenape. In their language, "Leni Lenape" means, "The Original People." The Acquackanonk sub-tribe were located along the Passaic River. They were part of the Algonquin language family, and known as "Delaware Indians" by the 18th century. They identified themselves with the totem of the Turtle. They were hunter-gatherers, matrilineal, and had cultural traditions such as wedding ceremonies. Northfield Ave and Old Indian Road in West Orange, remain as original Hackensack trails. Their main settlement was where the city of Hackensack is today. They would travel to the ocean or mountains to hunt for food. The Passaic River runs in an upside-down V shape – 8 miles (13 km) west and east, and 13 miles (21 km) north of West Orange. In the centuries prior to industrial development, the Passaic River and Watchung Mountains were major geographic landmarks amidst the untouched wilderness.

West Orange is located at the peak of the Watchung Mountains. This vantage point over the valleys east to Manhattan – had a strategic value for Lenni Lenape warriors, and later George Washington's troops during the American Revolution. The wooded South Mountain Reservation has rocks shaped like the backs of large turtles. The area is now known as "Turtle Back Rock Picnic Area" and gives its name to the Turtle Back Zoo. The Turtle Back Rocks were considered sacred to the Native Americans.[citation needed]

The Native Americans were hunter-gatherer tribes who would overlap territories and occasionally had tribal wars, but did not "own" land. They believed in taking only what was immediately necessary from nature, and considering the needs of the next seven generations. This hospitality at first benefited the European settlers, who struggled in the wilderness after reaching North America's shores. In the 1500s and 1600s, the territory was disputed and transferred many times between the Hackensack, Dutch, Scottish, Swedes, and English colonists. Due to the wars between the Native Americans and European settlers, most European settlers stayed East of the Hudson River. In 1664, the English took possession of Dutch New Netherland. On October 28, 1664, The English purchased 780 square miles (2,000 km2) of land from the Hackensack, from Staten Island to the Passaic River on the North to the Raritan River on the South, for about 154 English pounds. This is known as the "Elizabethtown Purchase."

In 1666, Puritan Captain Robert Treat moved south to New Jersey from Connecticut and purchased a tract of land from Governor Carteret, west of the Passaic River and 8 miles (13 km) east of what is currently West Orange. However, the Hackensack tribe disputed this purchase, and said it was not included in the Elizabethtown Purchase. On July 11, 1667, Treat settled the purchase through Samuel Efsal, a Lenni Lenape interpreter. He then founded "New Ark" or Newark, establishing it as a Puritan theocracy, as had been done in Milford, CT. The Newark territory kept extending West as the English overthrew the Dutch and claimed or purchased more Hackensack territory. This expansion was effected primarily by individual property owners, who would purchase tracts of land bit by bit. Sometimes they would name it after themselves or where they were from in Europe. Often the borders were not clearly defined, and few if any maps remain.

In 1678, Anthony Olive became the first European to settle in what is now West Orange. He was of Dutch origin. He started a farm at the base of the mountains—in what is now Llewellyn Park. It was still untouched wilderness. In 1702, New Jersey became a royal colony of England. By 1706 what is now West Orange – was considered part of Essex County in the East Jersey territory.

By the 1700s West Orange was known as part of the Newark Mountains. During the American Revolution, the valleys were populated by farms and mills. The area on Main Street now known as "Tory Corner" was called Williamstown, after two brothers Nathaniel and Benjamin Williams. Nathaniel and his two eldest sons were Loyalists to the British crown, and gathered other Loyalists for meetings. Nathaniel took his eldest sons James and Amos to join the British Army in 1777, and never returned. Meanwhile, Nathaniel's wife Mary Williams stayed on the farm with her younger children. Her farm house had been built in 1720. She gave freely to Washington's revolutionary troops. James finally returned to the farm decades later, to reunite with his mother Mary. Nathaniel and Amos never returned. Nathaniel died of smallpox in New York. A plaque to Mary Williams was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1922.

West Orange was initially a part of Newark township, and remained so until November 27, 1806, when the territory now encompassing all of The Oranges was detached to form Orange Township. On April 13, 1807, the first government was elected. On January 31, 1860, Orange was incorporated as a town, and on April 3, 1872, it was reincorporated as a city. Almost immediately, Orange began fragmenting into smaller communities, primarily because of local disputes about the costs of establishing paid police, fire and street departments. South Orange was organized on April 1, 1861, Fairmount Township (an independent municipality for less than one year that was later to become part of West Orange) on March 11, 1862, and East Orange on March 4, 1863. West Orange (including what had been the briefly independent municipality of Fairmount) was incorporated as a township on April 10, 1863, and was reformed as a town on February 28, 1900. In 1980, West Orange again became a township to take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated a greater share of government aid to municipalities classified as townships.

The township derives its name from William III of England or William IV, Prince of Orange, which in turn is derived from the city of Orange.

The Eagle Rock Reservation covers 400 acres (160 ha) in West Orange, Montclair and Verona. It was home to many eagles. It currently is the trail head for the Lenni Lenape Trail. Rock Spring is located at the bottom of the Turtle Back Rocks – currently at the corner of Northfield Avenue and Walker Road, West Orange. The water from the spring was considered to have healing powers since Native American times. By the 19th century, visitors from New York City would come to West Orange to drink the water from this spring for its supposed curative powers. West Orange became a resort or country retreat – with boating, fishing, and an Amusement Park at Crystal Lake near Eagle Rock Reservation. In 1901, the first uphill automobile test took place called the Eagle Rock Hill Climb.

Llewellyn Park, the first planned community in America, is located within West Orange, and was designed by entrepreneur Llewellyn Haskell and architect Alexander Jackson Davis in 1857. Llewellyn Park is considered among the best examples of the "Romantic Landscape" movement of that period.

Thomas Edison was one of the many residents.Thomas Edison's Laboratory, currently a National Historical Park, was where he developed the inventions that earned more than 1,000 patents, including the light bulb, stock ticker and recorded sound. The laboratory grounds also include the Black Maria – America's first movie studio, the birthplace of Hollywood. The whole idea of a movie industry was first born in West Orange. The town's movie industry rapidly began to spreading to surrounding areas. Eventually the industry spread to Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1907, which offered inexpensive land for movie production studios that could be located in close proximity to New York City. In response to the demands by the Edison Trust for royalties from studios, independent studios located in the Fort Lee area started to relocate to what is now Hollywood, California, where they could operate in good weather year-round, out of reach of Edison and his trust.

In the late 1800s, the Valley region of West Orange was home to 34 hat factories, known as the hat making capital of the country. It is currently under redevelopment as 'Hat City' or 'The Valley Arts District'. Until its closure in 1983, the Orange Quarry Company was located in West Orange, where bluestone was mined.

Post-World War II, there was a real estate development boom in West Orange. In the 1960s, "white flight" from the 1967 Newark riots and Civil Rights Era led to further settlement of West Orange. The 1970 opening of Interstate 280 made West Orange a popular "bedroom community" suburb for commuters to New York City. This coincided with changes to immigration laws re-opening the country to Asian immigration in 1965, and 1980s desegregation of American suburbs. By the 1990s, West Orange had become a "melting pot", home to a diverse and international community. Many of the industries that had made West Orange grow, left the area by the 1960s. This left some urban blight and abandoned warehouses in the Valley, in contrast to wealthy communities on top of the mountains.

It is currently home to Kessler Institute, where actor Christopher Reeve rehabilitated, and Daughters of Israel. It is also home to many Jewish synagogues and Korean churches.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 12.13 square miles (31.41 km2), including 12.00 square miles (31.09 km2) of land and 0.12 square miles (0.32 km2) of water (1.01%). It is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) west of downtown Newark and 12 miles (19 km) west of New York City. West Orange is in the New York metropolitan area.

The West Branch of the Rahway River originates at Crystal Lake and passes through the township in South Mountain Reservation.

West Orange borders the Essex County communities of Essex Fells, Livingston, Millburn, Maplewood, Montclair, Orange, Roseland, South Orange and Verona.

Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Crestmont, Crystal Lake, Llewellyn Park, Pleasantdale, and Saint Cloud.

The township has an eclectic mix of neighborhoods and housing types, which roughly correspond to the township's geographic features. Generally, the township has four distinct neighborhoods:

The oldest and most densely populated part of the township is Downtown West Orange, which lies in the low basin along the township's eastern border with the city of Orange and Montclair. Main Street, in this section, is home to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, as well as the municipal building, police headquarters, and a branch post office. The West Orange Public Library is located on Mount Pleasant Avenue in this section, just west of Main Street. Downtown West Orange is laid out in the pattern of a traditional town, and is formed around the western termini of two major east–west arteries of the Newark street grid: Central Avenue and Park Avenue. Downtown West Orange has the most urban character of the township's neighborhoods, while the Valley is home to a growing arts district, the West Orange Arts Center, Luna Stage and a significant African American community.

West of Downtown, the neighborhoods of West Orange become increasingly suburban as one ascends the steep hill of the First Watchung Mountain along Northfield, Mount Pleasant, or Eagle Rock Avenue. The housing stock in the neighborhoods of Hutton Park and Gregory is a mixture of Victorian, Jazz Age, and Tudor-style houses; large estates; garden apartments; and post-World War II modern houses. The Victorian enclave of Llewellyn Park, one of America's first planned residential communities, is also located on the First Mountain, having been created in 1853 as a site for country homes for the wealthy from New York City. Many blocks on the First Mountain have sweeping views of the Newark and New York City skylines.

Beyond the high ridge traced by Prospect Avenue, West Orange becomes a patchwork of post-World War II suburban neighborhoods, interspersed with pockets of older Victorian homes, as well as golf courses, professional campuses, and shopping centers. Pleasantdale, a walkable business district in this part of the township, includes a number of restaurants, office buildings, stores, and houses of worship. Pleasantdale is also home to a significant Orthodox Jewish community.

Finally, the westernmost section of West Orange lies along the eastern face of the Second Watchung Mountain, and includes large portions of the South Mountain Reservation. The housing stock in this neighborhood resembles that of Pleasantdale, as well as those of the adjacent suburban townships of Millburn and Livingston.

The 2010 United States census counted 46,207 people, 16,790 households, and 11,753 families in the township. The population density was 3,836.0 per square mile (1,481.1/km2). There were 17,612 housing units at an average density of 1,462.1 per square mile (564.5/km2). The racial makeup was 57.15% (26,406) White, 26.58% (12,284) Black or African American, 0.38% (174) Native American, 7.96% (3,680) Asian, 0.02% (10) Pacific Islander, 4.82% (2,227) from other races, and 3.09% (1,426) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.20% (7,487) of the population.

Of the 16,790 households, 33.4% had children under the age of 18; 53.1% were married couples living together; 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present and 30.0% were non-families. Of all households, 25.5% were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.28.

23.7% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.6 years. For every 100 females, the population had 88.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 83.2 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $88,917 (with a margin of error of +/- $4,480) and the median family income was $106,742 (+/- $5,256). Males had a median income of $65,854 (+/- $4,548) versus $43,223 (+/- $2,769) for females. The per capita income for the township was $43,368 (+/- $2,021). About 4.9% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.5% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

As of the 2000 United States Census there were 44,943 people, 16,480 households, and 11,684 families residing in the township. The population density was 3,708.7 people per square mile (1,431.7/km2). There were 16,901 housing units at an average density of 1,394.7 per square mile (538.4/km2). The racial makeup of the township was 67.6% White, 17.5% African American, 0.14% Native American, 8.09% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.52% from other races, and 3.20% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.04% of the population.

There were 16,480 households, out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.0% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.1% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.19. In the township the population was spread out, with 23.3% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 17.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $69,254, and the median income for a family was $83,375. Males had a median income of $52,029 versus $39,484 for females. The per capita income for the township was $34,412. About 4.6% of families and 5.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.

Developed by Sol Atlas, Essex Green Shopping Center is an outdoor mall with stores, like ShopRite, restaurants and an AMC Theatres Fork and Screen dine-in movie theater. The 350,000-square-foot (33,000 m2) mall, the largest of its type in Essex County, was purchased in 2016 by Clarion Partners.

The Jersey Rockhoppers hockey team of the Eastern Professional Hockey League, formed for the 2008–09 season, played home games at the Richard J. Codey Arena. The arena also used to be the practice facility for the New Jersey Devils from 1986 to 2007. The New Jersey Daredevils, a special needs hockey team formed in 2002 that plays in the SHI (Special Hockey International League), uses the arena for home games and practices. Annually in October, the Daredevils host a Halloween themed tournament for Special Hockey International teams (including the Daredevils themselves) called Frankenfest. Frankenfest has been going on every October since 2009. The New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey team also plays here as well.

The township is set off by two large parks: the South Mountain Reservation along its southwestern borders with Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange, and the Eagle Rock Reservation along its northeastern borders with Montclair and Verona. The township straddles the transition between the low-lying Newark Bay basin and the high terrain of the Watchung Mountains. Fishing and kayaking is available on the Rahway River.[citation needed]

West Orange is governed by Plan B of the Mayor-Council system of municipal government pursuant to the Faulkner Act, as implemented on July 1, 1962, by direct petition. The township is one of 71 municipalities (of the 565) statewide that use this form of government. The governing body is comprised of a mayor and a five-member township council. The mayor is directly elected to a four-year term. Each member of the council is elected to a four-year term of on a staggered basis, with either three council seats or two seats and the mayoral seat up for election every even-numbered year. Township elections are nonpartisan, with all seats chosen on an at-large basis. In December 2013, the Township Council approved an ordinance that shifted municipal elections from May to the November general election, citing savings from the combined elections estimated as much as $100,000 per cycle.

As of 2022[update], the Mayor of West Orange is Robert Parisi, whose term of office ends December 31, 2022. Members of the Township Council are Michelle Casalino (2024), Tammy Williams (2024), Bill Rutherford (2024), Cindy Matute-Brown (2022) and Susan McCartney (2022).

In September 2015, the Township Council selected Michelle Casalino to fill the seat expiring in December 2016 that had been held by Patty Spango until her resignation from office. On November 8, 2016, Councilwoman Casalino was elected to a four-year term.

Officers of the municipal court are:

As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 30,561 registered voters in West Orange, of which 14,166 (46.4%) were registered as Democrats, 3,273 (10.7%) were registered as Republicans and 13,108 (42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were no voters registered to other parties.

In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 71.3% of the vote (15,214 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 27.9% (5,950 votes), and other candidates with 0.8% (177 votes), among the 21,491 ballots cast by the township's 32,061 registered voters (150 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 67.0%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 67.8% of the vote (15,423 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 29.3% (6,667 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (154 votes), among the 22,740 ballots cast by the township's 30,260 registered voters, for a turnout of 75.1%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 64.7% of the vote (13,535 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 34.0% (7,118 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (186 votes), among the 20,933 ballots cast by the township's 28,418 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 73.7.

In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Democrat Barbara Buono received 56.0% of the vote (6,350 cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 42.9% (4,863 votes), and other candidates with 1.1% (125 votes), among the 11,580 ballots cast by the township's 32,390 registered voters (242 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 35.8%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 59.3% of the vote (8,168 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 32.9% (4,530 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 6.2% (858 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (100 votes), among the 13,773 ballots cast by the township's 29,898 registered voters, yielding a 46.1% turnout.

West Orange is split between the 10th and 11th Congressional Districts and is part of New Jersey's 27th state legislative district. Prior to the 2010 Census, West Orange had been split between the 8th Congressional District and the 10th Congressional District, a change made by the New Jersey Redistricting Commission that took effect in January 2013, based on the results of the November 2012 general elections. In the redistricting that took effect in 2013, 18,122 residents in the eastern third of the township were placed in the 10th district, while 28,085 residents in the western portion of the township were placed in the 11th District.

For the 117th United States Congress, New Jersey's Tenth Congressional District is represented by Donald Payne Jr. (D, Newark). For the 117th United States Congress, New Jersey's Eleventh Congressional District is represented by Mikie Sherrill (D, Montclair). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2027) and Bob Menendez (Harrison, term ends 2025).

For the 2022–2023 session, the 27th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Richard Codey (D, Roseland) and in the General Assembly by Mila Jasey (D, South Orange) and John F. McKeon (D, West Orange).

Essex County is governed by a directly-elected County Executive, with legislative functions performed by the Board of County Commissioners. As of 2021[update], the County Executive is Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. (D, Roseland). The county's Board of County Commissioners consists of nine members, five of whom are elected from districts and four of whom are elected on an at-large basis. They are elected for three-year concurrent terms and may be re-elected to successive terms at the annual election in November. There is no limit to the number of terms they may serve. [100] The most recent election for the Essex County Board of County Commissioners was on November 3, 2020.[101]

Essex County's Commissioners are:[102][103]

Constitutional officers elected countywide are:

The West Orange Public Schools serves students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2019–20 school year, the district, comprised of 12 schools, had an enrollment of 6,718 students and 632.5 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 10.6:1.[119] Schools in the district (with 2019–20 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics[120]) are Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center[121] (with 71 students in PreK), Gregory Elementary School[122] (454 students; in grades K-5), Hazel Avenue Elementary School[123] (320; K-5), Kelly Elementary School[124] (455; PreK-5), Mount Pleasant Elementary School[125] (353; K-5), Redwood Elementary School[126] (509; K-5), St. Cloud Elementary School[127] (356; K-5), Washington Elementary School[128] (417; K-5), Thomas A. Edison Middle School[129] (516; 6), Liberty Middle School[130] (536; 7-8), Roosevelt Middle School[131] (487; 7-8) and West Orange High School[132] (2,098; 9-12).[133][134] Pleasantdale School was renamed Kelly School in May 2016 in honor of Mark and Scott Kelly, identical twins who attended the school starting in second grade before becoming NASA astronauts.[135]

Seton Hall Preparatory School is a Roman Catholic all boys' high school that operates under the supervision of the Archdiocese of Newark.[136] Founded in 1856 on the campus of Seton Hall University, the school moved to West Orange in 1985.[137]

As of May 2010[update], the township had a total of 114.54 miles (184.33 km) of roadways, of which 89.63 miles (144.25 km) were maintained by the municipality, 19.45 miles (31.30 km) by Essex County and 5.46 miles (8.79 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.[138]

Interstate 280 is the main limited access road that passes through from east to west. Route 10 passes through in the western area and has its eastern terminus at CR 577 (which runs north–south through the township). CR 508 also traverse the municipality from east to west.

NJ Transit offers bus service in the township to Newark on the 21, 29, 71, 73 and 79 routes, with local service on the 97 route.[139][140][141] In September 2012, as part of budget cuts, NJ Transit suspended service to Newark on the 75 line.[142]

DeCamp Bus Lines offers scheduled service between the township and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan on the 66 route.[143]Coach USA / Community Coach serves the Port Authority Bus Terminal on route 77.[144]OurBus operates a commuter route to New York City serving Livingston and West Orange.[145]

The township offers a jitney service that operates on weekdays, offering service to the Brick Church, Orange and South Orange train stations.[146]

For many decades West Orange has been a center of the mass-media and telecommunication industries. Thomas Edison's Black Maria, the first movie studio ever, was located on Main Street and Lakeside Avenue. Several radio and television broadcast antennas are located in the town. From the late 1960s/early-1970s until the early 1990s UHF Channel 68 TV maintained their offices, studios, and transmitter at 416 Eagle Rock Avenue. After Channel 68 moved to West Market Street in Newark and their transmitter to the Empire State Building in Manhattan, NBC owned and operated stations WNBC-TV Channel 4 and WPXN-TV Channel 31 (NBC later sold its interest in WPXN's parent Paxson Communications) moved into the Eagle Rock Avenue complex operating backup transmitter facilities in case of a catastrophic event such as the destruction of their main transmitters at the World Trade Center which occurred on September 11, 2001. The original Channel 68 building was later demolished and a new building was erected in its place. West Orange was formerly the home of two religious radio stations WFME 1560AM licensed to New York City and WFME 106.3FM licensed to Mount Kisco, New York, and one now-defunct non-commercial station WNYJ-TV licensed to West Milford, New Jersey all owned by Family Stations, Inc., WFME-FM formerly operated on 94.7 until its sale to Cumulus Media in 2012 and renamed WNSH, In late 2020 Family Radio permanently closed its West Orange studios and began to operate from their transmitter facilities, WFME-AM in Maspeth, Queens in New York (In February 2021 the AM station ceased broadcasting temporarily after the land the transmitter was on was sold[147][148] ) and WFME-FM near Bedford, New York. WFMU 91.1FM formerly owned by Upsala College now owned by Auricle Communications has their transmitter towers on Marcella Avenue in a fenced shack adjacent to the former WFME studios.

Verizon Communications, going as far back as the mid to late 1950s and early 1960s when it was New Jersey Bell, operated an analog central office and later fiber optics facilities on Prospect Avenue near the Essex Green Shopping Center and a fiber optics and satellite transmitter facility which was originally owned and operated by MCI Inc. until it was acquired by Verizon in 2006. Additionally Sprint Corporation, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all own or lease cell phone towers throughout the town.

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