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October 26, 1984 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-10-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Friday, October 26, 1984

1. 4010

Ro l) Mc Keown


Looking east across Greenfield Road at the freeway route.

vored the positions of Southfield, Oak
Park and Pleasant Ridge. The act
which established the arbitration
board was challenged but was upheld
by the Oakland County Circuit Court
and the Michigan Supreme Court.
The matter might have ended
there peacefully enough were it not for
the fact that someone overlooked an
important legal loophole: federal law
always takes precedence over state
law. Although this alignment had
been upheld by the Michigan Supreme
Court, it was not binding upon the fed-
eral government, and after all, it was
federal money that would be paying
for the expressway.
In August 1968, the arbitration
board convened and took 3,000 pages
of testimony to enable it to decide upon
the proposed alignment in the three
hotly-disputed areas: Lathrup
Village-Southfield; Oak Park-
Huntington Woods; and Pleasant
Ridge-Royal Oak.
From that point on, the issue
boiled down to one of impact upon
existing land use, environmental con-
siderations and public reaction areas.
In March 1972, a draft of an
environmental impact statement was
submitted to the Council on
Environmental Quality.
For the next few years, the public
focus was upon the battle between the
Highway Department and the City of
Detroit over loss of land at the city-

owned Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, but
no mention was made of the vibrant
Orthodox Jewish community that
would be affected further down Ten
Mile Road.

Although an accompanying
document showed a route that would
have • removed three synagogues and
the mikvah (ritualariam) on Ten Mile
near Greenfield, a report dated Aug.
23, 1977 makes only the following
reference to the Jewish community:
"alternate B would propose the removal
_of the Dexter-Davison Market which
caters to the needs of the Jewish popu-
lation, of which there is a large number
in the immediate surrounding area." It
wasn't until Dec. 20, 1977 that any
mention was made in official Highway
Department reports about the
synagogues, and even then, not a word
appears about the residents.

Realizing that the community —
which consisted of 18 synagogues (15
of them Orthodox), ten kosher butcher
shops, ten bakeries, religious schools,
rabbinical schools, the Jimmy Prentis
Morris Branch of the Jewish Commu-
nity Center, the Federation Apart-
ments, Jewish Vocational Service and
the mikvah — apparently lacked de-
fenders even from within their own
community, Rabbis Freedman and
Wagner began, in 1978, to hold a series
of meetings to alert members of the
community to what was happening

and to marshal support for a move-
ment to try and halt the freeway.
They began by writing letters but
it wasn't until 1979 that they first
realized they had the power to fight
both the state and federal highway
planners. Rabbi Freedman recalls the
Moment of truth as dawning upon him
the evening he watched limousine
after limousine pull up in front of
Young Israel of Greenfield and deposit
high-level state and federal bureauc-
rats the coalition had invited to attend
a presentation outlining their opposi-
tion to the expressway route.
By 1980, the coalition was using
every option available to them, includ-
ing a number of sympathetic govern-
ment officials who were covertly sup-
plying the coalition with advice and
even leaked documents to further
their cause. The coalition effectively
discovered the bargaining tactic of
withdrawal and substitution, in which
federal funds pulled from an aborted
project (such as a freeway) could still
be allocated for development of exist-
ing highways in the area (like the Mile
Roads paralleling the alignment.
The coalition's first victory came
in March 1980 when the state issued a
32-page document titled 1-696 Social
Impact Study: The Orthodox Jewish
Community. The detailed report was
prepared by Michigan State Univer-
sity sociologist Dr. Harry Perlstadt

Continued on next page

The 1-696
Freeway: The
bathes over it
began two
decades ago.

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