Rabbi Lane Steinger said, "It
strengthened our fiscal viability in
the short-term." The state has offered
Cong. B'nai Moshe $9,000 for a small
corner of its land, and the two sides
are still negotiating.
Southfield's Board of Education
worked out a deal to get an improved
sports area for Birney Middle School,
Evergreen and Eleven Mile Road. The
highway planners had not taken into
consideration that a large percentage
of the schoolchildren would be losing
their only walking" path to school.
Those children are now being bussed.
Huge trucks in recent weeks have
been lumping loads excavated from
across Eleven Mile onto Birney's sun-
ken playground area.
What are the advantages to hav-
ing 1-696 as an east-west link when
traffic finally can travel its whole
length? It will serve to carry some of
the commuting traffic now using the
mile roads. Perhaps this will lead to
fewer traffic snarls and lower levels of
noise in neighboring areas.
The freeway may also be a boon
for merchants. In areas such as South-
field and west to Novi, construction of
businesses, hotels, and office build-
ings has been mushrooming. Further
east, there is a little vacant land
along the freeway.
Avrohom Borenstein, owner of
Borenstein's Book and Music Store on
Greenfield, said, We have a number
of people who moved out of the
neighborhood who now come back to
shop. They aren't completely happy
where they are now for their shop-
ping, particularly the senior citizens.
But some of our former neighbors
don't find it as convenient to come
here and shop." For such customers,
the freeway, which links up with
routes out to West Bloomfield and
Farmington Hills, should be a bless-
1-696 has also displaced hundreds
of people from their homes. The actual
percentage of people who chose to
move to a different area rather than
relocate within their old neighbor-
hoods is difficult to ascertain. It ap-
pears that a large number have
stayed. Several Huntington Woods
residents who had been renting
within the city for years took the
opportunity to buy homes within the
In some cities, finding another
house or apartment close by was im-
possible and many were forced to go •
elsewhere. For others, the freeway
acted as a catalyst in making a deci-
sion to move away. Often these people
were no longer young, their children
had left home, and they didn't want to
look after such a- large house. Some
were widowed and were ready to move
into an apartment or condominium.
Some of the Jewish residents decided
it was time to move into one of the
Federation apartments. 1-696 didn't
frighten them away — it Was merely
one of the deciding factors.
Is the freeway ruining the Jewish
community in Oak Park and South-
field? According to Rabbi E.B. Freed-
man, administrative director of
Yeshivath Beth Yehudah, "We don't
deal with the highway any differ-
ently, given our cultural background,
than anyone else. It's there. You deal
with it. Certainly getting from one
place to another is harder right now.
A major tie between below Ten Mile
and above Ten Mile was Church Road
— it's blocked off. People have to walk
around or drive the extra distance."
Rabbi Freedman said, "We are as
fragile as any other neighborhood. We
have a very healthy interaction be-
tween all the various components of
the neighborhood — families; schools,
synagogues, youth groups, three gen-
erations living in the one area. We
have all those. If you look at it in a
positive way it's three things — it's a
nice neighborhood, it's a nice Jewish
neighborhood, and it's a nice Or-
thodox neighborhood. The highway
could have a serious effect."
As a member of the group that
became known as the Orthodox Coali-
tion, Rabbi Freedman tried to make
state and federal authorities aware of
possible results of the highway's
presence in the area. Concessions
were won over a long period of time
but the final push to complete the
construction was not thwarted.
"They tried to lessen the impact
as much as highway engineers can in
the planning process," Rabbi Freed-
man said. "As far as I know, relatively
speaking, the highway department
has been responsive to the City of Oak
Park and to Eli Kaplan as the com-
munity's ombudsman . . . We didn't
get everything we wanted — our ul-
timate goal .was to stop the freeway —
but we were effective in raising our
concerns to a level where they dealt
What has been the effect of I-696?
Borenstein feels it "makes it
somewhat inconvenient for people to
get from one side to the other. I live on
one side and my mother is on the
other. It used to be easier to get to her
house. There's no question it now
takes longer as I have to go around.
Eventually when the deck is finished
the means of getting across will be
there. Obviously, there will be a little
inconvenience. Being an Orthodox
Jew, I have enough synagogues on the
side where I live. However, there are
occasions when I want to go to a bar
mitzvah or something at another syn-
agogue and it's a bit further to walk.
"Will it feel like two separate
communities — one north and one
south of the freeway? Will the high-
way physically and psychologically
seem to cut the area off and make it
into two separate communities? Once
most of the homes were gone during
the period when houses were being
taken — that led to some instability.
That's stabilized now as there are no
more to go in this area. It's still a very
nice neighborhood to live in."
Continued on next page
Alice and Meyer Mandelbaum would like to
remain in their Oak Park home.