RIVIERA BEACH — Concerned community members are calling it the latest case of environmental discrimination in the city. They are planning a public information event  this Sunday and they are pointing to the case of Pauline and Ocie Tune.

The couple has lived in the Riviera Beach Heights neighborhood since 1961. Pauline’s father built the house a generation ago and lived in it until the day he died. His final resting place is the Glenwood Cemetery, just behind the house. 

But the Tune’s house is scheduled to be demolished by the Florida Department of Transportation to make room for a “turning lane” and expansion of Australian Avenue — to which they and other community members object.

The expansion of Australian Avenue is to coincide with the Port of Palm Beach’s transformation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard  — the coastal terminus of State Road 710, also known as the Beeline Highway — into a highway for greater access to the port by trailer trucks.

Critics note the road project also is planned to include the first six feet of the Glenwood Cemetery along the Australian Avenue frontage. Glenwood Cemetery has the historical significance of at one time being one of the few places in Palm Beach County where African-American residents could be buried.

“They brought this situation to my attention and to the attention of their community,” said Maria Cole, whom the Tunes called on for help. “They don’t want to move and leave the neighborhood and their family legacy. This is their home and they don’t want to leave for a road project that divides a neighborhood, threatens public safety and pollutes the environment.”

The project opponents will be joined by conservationists, people of varied faiths and other concerned citizens from around Palm Beach County and other parts of South Florida at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Australian Avenue entrance to Glenwood Cemetery, 1233 W. Sixth St.

Beyond the historic and cultural significance, community members object to changing the nature of a residential neighborhood to an industrial area. The port is driving this expansion, along with FDOT, opponents say, without regard for the integrity of the neighborhood and the property values of its residents. 

Critics such as Cole, who is active in the community, say that in addition to depressing property values as a direct result of its negative environmental impact, the expansion project essentially rips a neighborhood apart. 

“It removes the ‘walk-ability’ for an increasingly older population more dependent upon public transportation, as well as extending the time it would take for emergency vehicles to respond by closing access to some of the roads,” Cole said.

A Jan. 8 meeting at the Revival Church of God regarding FDOT’s proposed State Road 710 expansion through the city drew 80 members of the public who raised questions and concerns regarding the ongoing port expansion.

“When you put a face on it and people see the connection to their home and community, it takes on a different perspective,” Cole said.

WHAT:  Community information event regarding the Florida Department of Transportation’s State Road 710 expansion

WHEN: 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 12

WHERE: Australian Avenue entrance to Glenwood Cemetery, 1233 W. Sixth St., Riviera Beach

CONTACT: For more information, call 561-704-4543.