President Joe Biden's National Park Service is evicting nine tenants from their beachfront shacks in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the Washington Examiner reported. One of those facing eviction has been living in his dwelling for nearly 80 years.
The shacks were taken over by the NPS in eminent domain in the 1960s. At the time, some of the occupants were given lifetime leases while others were offered short-term or long-term leases.
Now the NPS is offering the properties for new 10-year leases and has even taken to arranging showings of the properties while the current tenants and their belonging are still there. Some tenants, like 94-year-old Salvatore Del Deo, are being told they have no rights to the property in the first place.
Del Deo, who is an artist, was given the rights to the dune shack 77 years ago. He was friends with Jeanne Schnell, who purchased the original shack in 1946.
Schnell willed the property to Del Deo and his wife, Josephine, because he had acted as its caretaker. Unfortunately, the NPS didn't recognize that transfer and instead considered Schnell's daughter, Adrienne, to be the heir.
Adrienne Schnell passed away in 2016, but Del Deo continued to pay property taxes. That wasn't good enough for the NPS, which recently learned of her death and advised Del Deo he was no longer the rightful tenant.
NPS gave Del Deo until June 20 to vacate the home he had been living in for three-quarters of a century. "We’re not even allowed to bid [on the shack] right now," Del Deo's son Romolo said.
"We don’t know when that might be possible, or under what conditions. We’re not their enemy," he went on. Even Schnell's other surviving daughter wants Del Deo to continue to live there.
"But we are being treated like their enemy. And we wish that they wouldn’t treat us that way," Romolo Del Deo added.
The Del Deo family is adamant that they will not back down, especially considering Josephine Del Deo was instrumental in getting Provincetown to turn the land where the shacks are built over to the NPS in the first place.
"They saw the park as the only solution to the overwhelming amount of people who came on the weekends and the investors," Salvatore Del Deo said. "The park would be the lesser evil because they will maintain the purity of the backshore," he added.
Salvatore Del Deo posted on his Instagram that the shacks are "intrinsic to the Cape Cod National Seashore" and must remain as is. "The park was created to preserve both the nature and the folklore, transforming the dune dwellings into a Potemkin village will not preserve them, the structures may endure but the culture will be broken," he wrote.
The right to private property is fundamental to the American way of life. Eminent domain is sometimes a necessary move, even if it does trample on the rights of the owners.
However, the battle in Provincetown seems to be a case where the property is being taken from its rightful tenants simply because it has become more valuable. Once the NPS feels free to do that, anyone's beachfront property could be next.