No firm plan for Dowling College, new owner says at meeting
Plans for Dowling College’s Oakdale campus have not been “solidified” as the new owner studies the best educational use for the property, a company official said Tuesday.
Mercury International LLC representatives laid out their plans to run a higher education institute at the shuttered campus at its first public meeting Tuesday.
Mercury wants to open a school with “an international flavor” but it is “very early in the process” and does not have a curriculum, said Don Cook, director of operations, at the meeting in Islip Town Hall West auditorium in Islip.
“We want to do a market study to see what’s needed out there,” Cook, of Huntington, said. “At this point, we’re just trying to get the zoning to allow us to explore our options.”
Cook said he expected a school would not be up and running for at least a year and a half.
Mercury, of Delaware, was formed to operate the campus and has three full-time employees plus security guards, Cook said. Its parent company is NCF Capital Ltd., a China-based multinational financial management company seeking to establish its first U.S. educational venture, Cook said.
NCF purchased the 25-acre property for $26.1 million in August after Dowling closed and declared bankruptcy in 2016.
Mercury applied last month for a zoning change that would preserve some buildings’ exteriors while allowing the interior to be used in alternative ways. The zoning change would protect Idle Hour Mansion, the Performing Arts Center, the Kramer Science Center, and the well, Cook said.
Thomas Wassel, a Cullen and Dykman LLP attorney representing Mercury, said the company was focused on obtaining an Islip Town permit needed to operate a college and couldn’t “speculate about possible development of the property five to 10 years down the road.”
Campus buildings are being heated and maintained after years of neglect under Dowling management, Cook said. The company will also look at ways to generate revenue before opening a school and is in talks to purchase other parts of campus not included in the sale, Cook said.
Residents said they were glad to discuss the property’s fate after years of uncertainty but expressed concerns about a lack of details.
“It’s too vague,” said Eileen Penny, who lives across the street from the campus. “Their plan is good but I can’t see why they would invest all that money and have to wait four or five years to get income.”