OAKDALE

Vanderbilt Mansion, old Dowling College site still left overgrown

Linda Leuzzi
Posted 6/16/20

For a historic mansion, one that has an Islip Town Planned Landmark Designation and a 2020 citation from Preservation Long Island for the historical society that fought for it, the Vanderbilt Mansion …

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OAKDALE

Vanderbilt Mansion, old Dowling College site still left overgrown

Posted

For a historic mansion, one that has an Islip Town Planned Landmark Designation and a 2020 citation from Preservation Long Island for the historical society that fought for it, the Vanderbilt Mansion isn’t getting much respect.

Neither are the other buildings on the former Dowling College site.

A walk through the main campus area on Friday revealed high grassy areas, empty buildings and no security.

Oakdale Historical Society board secretary Michelle Burke said her husband has chronicled Dowling College’s bankruptcy case, read legal documents, and posted a timeline of the property’s issues, which is on the Oakdale Historical Society Facebook page.

“It started last summer with Mercury International LLC not keeping the grounds up,” Burke said of the current owner. “Another year and we’re in the same, if not worse, condition. It looks like the plains of Nebraska there, but we’re also getting reports of graffiti, people breaking in the buildings and starting fires.”

“We spoke to Inspector Silva from the 5th Precinct about increasing police patrols,” said Oakdale Historical Society president Maryann Almes. “I spoke to [Islip Town supervisor] Angie Carpenter to reach out to the fire marshal. She sent him there to inspect it. [Islip Town] said they’d be mowing the lawn.”

NCF Capital Ltd., of Hong Kong, purchased the 25-acre campus in 2018 for $26.1 million after Princeton Education LLC failed to close. Its affiliate, Mercury International LLC, now owns the 25-acre campus.

But the town has been trying to address the owner’s negligence.

“The Town of Islip sent a fire marshal to the property May 27, June 1 and again on June 9,” said Islip Town communications and media relations director Caroline Smith in an email. “The Town of Islip received an email response from Mercury International [Hong Kong] on June 1, where Mercury indicated they would take care of the condition of the property. Town officials are in the process of gathering the necessary documentation to pass a resolution by the town board to clean and secure the property, should the owner not comply. In addition, appearance tickets will be issued once the courts are open.”

The relationship with Mercury began promisingly enough.

In a Feb. 8, 2018 Suffolk County News article, Thomas Wassel, partner at Cullen and Dykman LLP, which represents the new owners, stated during a Feb. 6, Islip Town Hall West meeting, “… we’re going to bring the property back. It’s a jewel of the community and we intend to polish that jewel to the benefit of the community members.” Mercury International LLC’s director of operations, Don Cook, was also reported saying at the same meeting that the proposed educational institution to be placed there was being labeled as a “degree-granting school.”

The new owners even removed a bush crowding out the historic well in an early attempt to be a good neighbor.

Wassel did not respond to requests for comment.

The 110-room Vanderbilt Mansion was completed in 1901 after an 1899 fire brought down the original Idle Hour residence, built in 1876. The pinnacle of William K. Vanderbilt’s 900-acre estate, it was reconstructed while Dowling College occupied it after yet another fire in 1974.

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