Oakdale residents call for Islip officials to hold owners of former Dowling College more accountable

Oakdale Civic Association Vice-President-elect Thomas Alfano says the property has become a playground for mischief.

Jon Dowding

Jun 15, 2024, 2:38 AM

Updated 36 days ago


Frustrated Oakdale residents say the Town of Islip and owners of the former Dowling College property, Mercury International, need to take action to save the historic Idle Hour Mansion.
The Town of Islip reached a tax settlement agreement with Mercury International at the end of 2023. Community members say Mercury would receive tax refunds in installments and say Mercury had to use $250,000 from the first installment for security, maintenance and repairs to the historic mansion.
Oakdale residents like Lee Kennedy say none of that has happened yet.
"They have no respect for us. They don't care about us,” she said. "They have not been true friends to us. They don't really care about the people of Idle Hour."
Debra Gosse has lived in the Idle Hour neighborhood for over 30 years and fondly remembers a time when Dowling College used to welcome the community into the Vanderbilt Mansion around Christmas time. Now, she walks her dogs around the boarded-up remains of the historic mansion.
"It's heartbreaking and not only that, but it's literally history disintegrating and it's such a shame,” she said.
Oakdale Historical Society President Maryann Almes says the Vanderbilt Idle Hour Mansion is synonymous with the Oakdale neighborhood surrounding the former Dowling College.
"This is the namesake of our community,” she said. "Now we're left with a derelict, abandoned building that the landlords don't care about. They don't care about the history."
Oakdale Civic Association Vice-President-elect Thomas Alfano says the property has become a playground for mischief.
"We have individuals coming into this community on a weekly basis in the middle of the night attempting to break into this facility,” he said.
In a statement to News 12, a Town of Islip spokesperson wrote, “The Town and representatives for the property owner are working together to finalize a plan for improved security measures at Idle Hour Mansion. The reason for the delay is we want to get it right. We anticipate the installation of security measures in the near future and hope they are effective in deterring - if not eliminating - criminal activity at the site.”
Neighbors say that their trust is already fragile.
"We feel our elected officials are not as concerned as we are,” said Gosse.
Community groups say speaking out about the lack of progress at the mansion isn’t the only action they’ll take if town officials don’t step up.
"You are elected for a reason. We put you in those seats. We can easily take you out of those seats in November,” said Alfano.
An attorney for Mercury Inter

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