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Court approves sale of Dowling College Brookhaven campus for $14M

The former Dowling College School of Aviation and

The former Dowling College School of Aviation and athletic fields off William Floyd Parkway in Shirley. Credit: CAHN Communications / Best Aerial Photos / Vincent Vuoto

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Central Islip approved the sale of Dowling College’s 105-acre Brookhaven campus in Shirley to Triple Five Aviation Industries LLC for $14 million.

At a Monday hearing, representatives, creditors and trustees of the defunct liberal arts college requested that Judge Robert E. Grossman approve the sale, allowing for Triple Five Aviation and Dowling’s estate to close the real estate transaction within 45 days. Triple Five Aviation is a subsidiary of the Triple Five Group of Companies — the majority partner in a joint venture to redevelop the Enterprise Park at Calverton, known as EPCAL, as an aviation business hub.

Triple Five plans to use the Shirley site — which includes a 70-room dormitory, an athletic complex, a two-building office and classroom complex, and a 7,500-square-foot airplane hangar — as part of its effort to develop aviation technology at EPCAL.

“We’re excited,” Stuart Bienenstock, director of business development for Triple Five Group, said after the afternoon hearing. “This will really give us the opportunity to kick-start the implementation of our regional vision.”

In 2016, Dowling College ran out of funds, lost its accreditation and closed. Dowling said it had $54 million in long-term debt, and filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2016.

A bankruptcy auction of the Brookhaven campus took place at the end of January, but was adjourned without a winner. The highest bid was $10.2 million, submitted by John Pjeternikaj, according to court documents.

Creditors and lenders involved in the bankruptcy didn’t support the sale of the campus for the amounts bid at auction, and spoke with 18 additional parties seeking a higher bid, the documents said.

“We ran a full and fair sale process and the results are clear that the offer by Triple Five was the highest and best,” said Sean Southard, an attorney representing Dowling in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. “We always prefer to have more money to distribute to creditors.”

The Brookhaven property is the second campus the college has sold since it filed for bankruptcy. Dowling’s 25-acre Oakdale campus — including the William K. Vanderbilt Mansion — was bought at auction last year by NCF Capital Ltd., a Hong Kong company, for $26.1 million; it is now owned by Mercury International LLC, an entity affiliated with NCF.

Officials at Mercury have said they want to open a higher education institution. The entity has submitted a zoning application to the Town of Islip for that purpose.

The Alumni Association of Dowling College held a private informational meeting and fundraising event last month with the goal of getting a school charter and reopening the defunct school. Members said the Oakdale campus is one of the locations they’ve considered as a site for a successor to Dowling.

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