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Dowling College's campus in Shirley under new ownership

The sale of the $14 million campus closes the same week the Islip Town Planning Board gives support to saving structures on the Oakdale property. 

The Brookhaven campus of Dowling College in Shirley

The Brookhaven campus of Dowling College in Shirley was sold last week.  Photo Credit: James Carbone

Plans to bring the shuttered Dowling College campuses in Oakdale and Shirley back to life are moving forward.  

Historic buildings on the Oakdale campus are a step closer to being preserved, and the Shirley campus is officially under new ownership.

The Islip Town Planning Board voted Thursday to support a proposal to preserve the exterior of some Oakdale campus buildings and later use them in alternative ways.

A day after the vote, Triple Five Aviation Industries LLC closed on the sale of the Brookhaven campus in Shirley, said Stuart D. Bienenstock, director of business development for Triple Five Group of Companies.

The campuses have gone largely unused since Dowling went bankrupt and closed in 2016.

Oakdale campus owner Mercury International LLC officials said they are still researching how to best use the property. Triple Five officials have said the 105-acre Brookhaven campus — which includes a 70-room dormitory, an athletic complex, a two-building office and classroom complex, and a 7,500-square-foot airplane hangar — will be part of an effort to develop aviation technology.

Mercury is seeking to add a planned landmark preservation district to the Oakdale campus — a bid that the Islip Planning Board recommended be approved by the town board.

The district would preserve the mansion, performing arts center, “Love Tree” and well on the campus, formerly part of the “Idle Hour” estate of William K. Vanderbilt, the grandson of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.  

The zoning district is an "important component to preserve these historic features in the Oakdale community," senior planner Sean Colgan said.

A separate hearing process will determine how the preserved buildings will be used, officials said. 

Don Cook, Mercury’s director of operations, said preserving — and possibly improving — the historic buildings has been part of the company’s plan since purchasing the $26.1 million campus last year.

“It needs a little TLC,” Cook said of the property.

The planning board recommendation states what special uses Mercury could apply for, including a mooring wharf, parking field, private club, private or parochial school, vocational and non-degree-granting school, catering hall and more. Any other uses would be prohibited under deed covenants and restrictions.

The recommendation excludes the Racanelli Learning Resources Center from the district because it is not architecturally significant. It also limits exterior lighting and allows for the Vanderbilt well — which was already relocated from its original spot — to be moved to another visible location, subject to planning board approval. 

Maryann Almes, president of the Oakdale Historical Society, called the planning board decision “beautiful.”

“We’ll shine up our jewel,” she said.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Central Islip approved selling the Shirley campus for $14 million to Triple Five in June. 

Bienenstock was not available for comment Monday.

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