We thought our google translator was messing with us when we read the Chinese Daily newspaper article last Tuesday discussing the eviction. They called us a “nail house”. Thankfully, with the help of our Chinese speaking staff, we were able to get a fuller understanding of the sophisticated term used in China to describe what has been come to be known as a revolutionary act. A “nail house” refers to a home owner (usually) who refuses to sell their property to the government so they can build a high rise or a freeway or something like that. The refusal of eminent domain then manifests in the project moving ahead and building itself around the home owner that refuses to sell.
The term comes from the idea that these home owners are like a stubborn nail that is very very hard to pull out.
Warner Brothers made a cartoon about it in the 1950′s with Bugs Bunny-who refused to give up his rabbit hole and forced a high rise to be built around him.
Americans will often refer to Chinese society as an oppressive culture that has tight reins over its people. In a case like this, it seems they actually have more rights than us Americans. If our government wants to take its land back, it does, often at the expense of the individual who owns/operates it. In fact, sometimes the government will do the dirty work on behalf of privateers. In the case of Donald Trump and Atlantic CIty, this was case. Trump sought approval for his new casino, and after gaining it, he put it to the local agency for redevelopment to take back land via eminent domain. This meant the offers to the home owners were far below market rate and gave them no legal choice in the matter.
In some ways, we can see that happening here. The city government is taking back land for a few private citizens to have and not compensating or relocating those who will be put out by that effort. Eventually, when the Rec and Park garden wait list is revealed, the public will learn that the few loud voices that have been calling for the closure of the ecology center will directly benefit from that action by obtaining pre-reserved garden plots.