Queens lawmaker drafts legislation curbing insider dealing in real estate after reports of Amazon employees buying LIC condos

As resistance grows against Amazon’s coming to Long Island City, state Sen. Michael Gianaris anounces new legislation aimed at curbing insider dealing in real estate after two Amazon employees brought condos before the deal was official.
Photo by Walter Karling
By Bill Parry

A Queens lawmaker who has been out front in his opposition to the state and city deal that will bring Amazon to Long Island City since it was announced Nov. 13, is acting on reports that some employees of the e-commerce giant had inside information to buy condominiums in the neighborhood before the deal was announced.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris announced new legislation aimed at curbing such inside information in real estate deals prohibiting anyone from using confidential government information to buy or sell real estate.

“Trading on insider information is illegal with securities and should be illegal with real estate,” Gianaris said Tuesday. “No one should be cashing in on confidential inside information.”

His measure would create the Class-E felony of “Insider Dealing in Real Property” for those who use non-public government information to buy or sell real estate. Gianaris plans to introduce the legislation when the new session convenes in January.

This is the second piece of legislation Gianaris has announced aimed a curbing the lax regulatory environment that led to the Amazon deal. He previously announced a bill that would prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements as part of economic development negotiations.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Amazon employees were purchasing condos in the neighborhood in advance of the company’s decision to locate its HQ2 campus around Anable Basin.

“We announced the location to employees at the same time as it was announced publicly,” an Amazon spokesman said. “We employ more than 4,000 in NYC that live and work in the tristate area. Despite multiple requests, the WSJ has been unable to provide Amazon with any information regarding the employees on which their story was based. Amazon has no evidence that any employee who may have made a property purchase in the locations before the announcement had any advance knowledge on the location selections.”

Amazon said its team involved in the HQ2 project was very small and all of them were subject to certain restriction.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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