Plans for Dowling College property stall
OAKDALE—Islip Town Planning Board members and local residents expressed concern during a public hearing last Thursday, June 28 about the lack of details in a bid to preserve parts of the shuttered Dowling College campus on Idle Hour Boulevard.
Mercury International LLC purchased the 25-acre property for $26.1 million in August, 2017 after Dowling College closed its doors on Aug. 31, 2016.
The planning board ultimately postponed the property owner’s application for a Planned Landmark Preservation, which would protect the exterior of some buildings while using the facilities in a variety of ways that have yet to be decided.
Mercury also requested special permits for a vocational and non-degree granting school, office (non-medical), assembly and social reception hall, dormitory, theater, library, dance studio, catering hall, cafeteria, farmer’s market and mooring wharf for boats.
Mercury’s director of operations, Don Cook, says that since the campus was operating until just under two years ago, any allowed construction to the property in the future would be kept to a minimum.
Oakdale Historical Society president Maryann Almes stated during the public portion of the meeting that the new owner “has been cooperative and has fixed a lot.”
Nevertheless, planning board chairman Edward Friedland was forced to dismiss the developer’s applications—for the time being—because no specific plans had been presented to the board or to the community.
Residents and the Oakdale Historical Society members expressed enthusiasm for Mercury’s efforts to preserve and even build on the property, which they call the “jewel of the community.” Thomas Wassel, partner at Cullen and Dykman LLP, the law firm representing Mercury, has also stated that the developers intend to preserve the famous well and “loving tree” that are both located on campus.
In the past, residents have expressed concern about Mercury being a subsidiary of NFC Capital, an educational institution based in Beijing, China. This wasn’t the case, last week.
However, some residents raised the question of whether the developers were paying property taxes, since the defunct campus is zoned residential. Wassel insisted that Mercury is “paying their fair share.”
Jenny Fields, an Oakdale resident, said the PLP application was “admirable,” but also “odd because [Mercury doesn’t] appear to have much of a business plan.” She also asked the planning board to inform the public if the developers add apartments or condos to future zoning applications.
In addition, Fields expressed concern about the property’s sewage treatment, which she described as “always being in violation.” She also showed doubt that Dowling ever paid whatever fines came from the violations she mentioned.
Another local resident pointed out that the Connetquot River is one of the most polluted waterways in New York State, and that Dowling College was most likely a large contributor to the pollution in the Great South Bay. He also asked the developers to rectify whatever they could when it comes to the sewage system, should the property be up and running.
Meanwhile, the Dowling College Alumni Association is currently trying to resurrect their alma mater. A fundraiser was held in May to help pay for attorneys. Alumni president Frank Corso Jr. also recently told this publication that his team has been looking at locations for the new college.
“The Oakdale campus is one option and the eastern campus (Brookhaven) is another,” Corso said, adding that his team has also looked at several other locations in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.
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