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October 26, 1984 - Image 16

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

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Friday, October 26, 1984


Bob McKeown


The Riviera Apts. along Greenfield were demolished this summer.

The late 1970s:
Mobilizing the
Orthdox Coalition
to fight the
expressway route.

who had spent time studying the
community and its residents at the be-
hest of the coalition. The findings of
what was to become known as the
Perlstadt Report became the basis of
the concessions eventually negotiated
by attorney Schlussel, who repre-
sented the Orthodox community
throughout this period without fee.
The Perlstadt Report was the first
acknowledgement by the state or fed-
eral government of the uniqueness
and social cohesiveness of the Or-
thodox community in Oak Park and
how the community perceived the
threat of the construction of the ex-
pressway. The study also outlined sev-
eral mitigating measures which the
author felt could lessen the impact of
the 1-696 extension on the Orthodox
Now politics entered the picture.
President Jimmy Carter was in a tight
race for re-election that fall against .
Republican opponent Rpnald Reagan.
Carter correctly saw Michigan as a
state he desperately needed to carry in
order to win the election. In an attempt
to win over Michigan's traditionally
blue-collar Democratic voters, Carter
planned to announce the signing of the
environmental impact statement the
day before the election. The statement
gave the Orthodox community no con-
cessions whatsoever. In effect, Carter
was choosing hard-hat voters (the

recession-buffeted construction trades
and their union members would im-
mediately benefit from the start-up of
the expressway) over the Orthodox
Jewish community, who had far fewer
votes to deliver to the president.
Only decisive action by the , Or-
thodox Coalition prevented Carter's
last-minute plan. (His representatives
were still negotiating "in good faith"
with the Orthodox Coalition and the
coalition Was able to negotiate several
major concessions before outgoing
President Carter signed the agree-
ment only five days before he left office
in January 1981).
Concessions did not stop construc-
tion of the expressway. Some members
of the Orthodox community (against
the advice of Schlussel) joined in July
1982 with Lathrup Village and Pleas-
ant Ridge in a federal lawsuit to block
the expressway. Almost a year later, a
U.S. district judge threw it out of court.
An appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals in Cincinnati fared no better.
The last legal obstacle to the ex-
pressway had been demolished and the
path was clear for the bulldozers.
"Look, to say that we lost would be
a mistake," insists Rabbi Freedman.
We didn't get what we wanted, which
was to forget the expressway for this
area, but it was an extensive battle
and there were a lot of concessions on
both sides. People might even say both

sides won, but I don't think so. No, I
guess we lost, but we didn't lose the
entire war. And maybe we lost the
war, but certainly not all the battles."
So what then did they win?
The January 1981 agreement
called for the following concessions to
be made to the Orthodox community;
• Replacement housing. Rabbi
Freedman considers this concession
• No ramps (exit or entrance) at
Ten Mile Road and Greenfield. Sub-
sequently, the Orthodox community
would lose this concession as well.
• Staged construction and noise
and dust abatement. No work to be
done on Shabbat and the High Holy
Days. The Orthodox Coalition over-
looked the loophole about tunnel work,
which has been proceeding on a 24-
hour basis, including Shabbat.
• Pedestrian circulation during
construction. This means the Or-
thodox will be able to cross the ex-
pressway construction sites on Shab-
bat to attend synagogue.
• Pedestrian circulation after con-
struction. Sidewalks are to be con-
structed parallel to the expressway so
that pedestrians do not have to walk to
an exit ramp in order to cross the ex-
• Decks across the expressway
which will serve to visually connect

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