The ongoing investigation into the purchase of 54,000 acres surrounding the Travis Air Force Base in California, believed to be linked to China, has state lawmakers demanding action to prevent the same scenario from unfolding in New York state. Assemblyman Matt Slater (R,C-Yorktown) introduced legislation this spring (A.5301) that would prohibit nations of concern, like China, from purchasing land in New York state. Now, he and more than a dozen sponsors say the state cannot wait for the legislative session to reconvene in January and action must be taken.
“There are reports from multiple states of property, specifically farmland, being purchased in the vicinity of military bases by enemies of the United States like China,” explained Slater. “New York state must be proactive and take strong steps to ensure the same scenario does not unfold here in the Empire State. My colleagues and I are calling on Gov. Hochul to take the necessary measures to reassure all New Yorkers we are doing all we can to avoid falling victim to China or any other enemy who wishes to do harm to our state and nation.”
Slater’s legislation, which is being sponsored in the state’s upper house by Sen. Jake Ashby, would prohibit foreign governments, entities and noncitizen individuals that are of particular concern, as identified by the United States Department of State, from acquiring real property within the state of New York. Slater originally wrote the proposal following the Chinese spy balloon incident and reports that agents of the Chinese Communist Party were arrested in New York City.
Columnist, author and lawyer Gordon Chang, a nationally recognized expert on Chinese relations, praised the legislation saying, “We must protect our farmland. Parties from China have used agricultural and ranch land in other states to illegally grow marijuana, to base human trafficking operations and to house other criminal operations. In one state, Chinese owners patrol their farms with guards carrying machine guns. Their fences are built to keep people in, not out. Does New York really want to have to deal with this?”
A letter was sent to the Department of Finance commissioner requesting the department “investigate and, if necessary, intervene in any transactions involving the sale of real property located in New York State to individuals, companies or entities owned or controlled by a foreign country of particular concern, as identified by the United States Department of State.”
“I'm greatly concerned about having New York land owned by a foreign government or regime. In my view, it would set a precedent that allows bad actors on the doorsteps of the United States and could potentially leave us vulnerable to sabotage. I’m proud to sponsor legislation that reserves land purchases to be for Americans, and for Americans only,” said Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R,C-Deerpark).
“New York being of interest to others who want to set up shop here is something I would usually applaud, but this case is unique in that those buying land and developing it could very well not have our best interests in mind. With New York being such a cultural and military epicenter of the United States, it becomes this government’s responsibility to ensure only those who wish to work with us, rather than spy on us or hinder us, be allowed to build here,” said Assemblyman Jarrett Gandolfo (R,C-Sayville).
Assemblyman Anil Beephan, Jr. (R,C-East Fishkill) said: “Naturally, our state welcomes those who wish to establish businesses, contribute to our economy and enhance our communities. However, we also bear the responsibility, not just to our state but to the entire nation, to ensure individuals identified as non-allies are not granted the same privileges. Given New York’s role as a hub for diverse activities, including civilian and military, we must implement necessary precautions to uphold our nation’s stability.
“Any perceived threat to our national security is not to be taken lightly. For foreign entities that have consistently shown hostility toward the U.S. to be able to acquire such large portions of land throughout our state and country is a grave concern, and we must address it immediately. I sincerely hope Commissioner Harris will take action in support of this bill for the safety and security of the citizens of this country,” said Assemblyman Scott Bendett (R,C-Sand Lake).
“New York’s agricultural industry is one of the centerpieces of our state and a main driver of our economy. However, this industry cannot sustain itself if foreign entities are buying up farmland across our state. I ask that Commissioner Harris and the State Department of Financial Services investigate this matter to ensure the integrity of this industry and implement an immediate moratorium due to their risk to our national security and food security,” said Assemblyman John Lemondes (R,C-LaFayette).
“Property acquisition by any foreign entities is a major threat to the national security of this nation. The concerns are wide-reaching, especially when the property is purchased by adverse nations such as China, Iran and Russia,” said Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown).
“Foreign property acquisition is a major geostrategic concern as it may be part of a larger strategy aimed at expanding influence, projecting power or gaining a foothold in New York state. New York’s safety is paramount, and timely action is imperative to ensure our resilience against those seeking to exploit our land for potentially hostile use,” said Assemblyman Joe DeStefano (R,C-Medford).
“New York has been overwhelmed by real estate acquisitions by those tied to foreign hostile regimes. The state must look into regulating these sales to protect the economic and security interests of our state and nation. Chinese companies are very closely intertwined with the Chinese government and allowing so many real estate transactions without pause is like handing over the keys to your house to an intruder. We must take the matter very seriously,” said Assemblyman Mike Reilly (R,C-Staten Island).
“I wholeheartedly support Assembly Bill 5301, which aims to safeguard our state and national interests, ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. The acquisition of real property by foreign countries and entities puts our sovereignty at risk. Bill 5301 is a critical step toward securing America’s future, preserving our own property needs, enhancing our security and safeguarding our national interests,” said Assemblyman Ari Brown (R-Cedarhurst).
“Our country and our state’s security and prosperity rely on real property to be owned by domestic landholders. Increasingly, farmland and other large portfolios of real estate are being acquired by hostile foreign actors such as those tied to the Chinese government. The state must limit such concerning transactions from taking place to ensure security for our state and its future,” said Assemblyman Brian Maher (R,C-Walden).
“Preserving New York's land is essential to safeguard its cultural, environmental, and economic heritage. Ensuring that it remains under local ownership helps maintain its unique character and prevents potential exploitation by foreign entities, such as China. It is land that New York farmers want and need, there is no reason we should be pawning off parts of our state to other countries.” said Chris Tague (R,C- Schoharie)