Town and county attempt to address Vanderbilt issues

Linda Leuzzi
Posted 6/25/20

Three million dollars is a lot to owe Suffolk County in back taxes.

But that is the obligatory amount that Mercury International LLC owes on the former Dowling College site, said county deputy …

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Town and county attempt to address Vanderbilt issues


Three million dollars is a lot to owe Suffolk County in back taxes.

But that is the obligatory amount that Mercury International LLC owes on the former Dowling College site, said county deputy comptroller Doug Sutherland. The property, owned by Mercury, is currently languishing, with a swath of unmowed grass, and as the Oakdale Historical Society points out, vandalism, graf- fiti, and no security on the former campus, which houses the historic Vanderbilt Mansion.

“All the records we have on property owners are supplied by all 10 towns,” explained Sutherland. “So, the Town of Islip has addresses of the property owners and we get the entire town file every June, and whether the owners have paid or not paid. Then we go through the file as to who didn’t pay and they get letters from us.”

When Legis. Anthony Piccirillo contacted Sutherland’s office requesting information on the former Dowling College site, Sutherland responded, “Sure enough, [Mercury International LLC] owes.”

NCF Capital Ltd., of Hong Kong, purchased the 25-acre campus in 2018 for $26.1 million. Its affiliate, Mercury International LLC, now owns the 25-acre campus.
The Oakdale Historical Society just won a Preservation Long Island Award for their concerted efforts in pushing through the Vanderbilt Mansion’s Islip Town Planned Landmark Designation.

Oakdale Historical Society president Maryann Almes spoke about the purchase and how the owners eventually stepped away from their responsibilities.

“NCF Capital originally purchased the former Dowling site; then it was handled by Mercury International [Delaware] listed as the owner,” she said. “There are corporations that have satellites; that’s why you get nowhere. It’s a way of protecting themselves.”

“We believe [Mercury] just wanted to shelter the money out of China and had no intentions of making it into a school,” Almes said.

Almes said Don Cook, director of operations for Mercury International, had been cooperative in the past, but communications on his end have basically ceased over the last year.

Cook did not respond to requests for comment.

Almes said the ownership has decided against the use of the mansion or any buildings for any purposes in 2020.

“Last year, teachers used the mansion,” she said. “It was sublet for New York State grading. A couple of crew teams also used the property. There were three organizations using it, so the property was used low level for a couple of things.”

Currently, it appears that Mercury International LLC is in a wrestling match with the town about the taxes. “We can confirm that they are contesting their assessment via an active tax certiorari action,” said Islip Town spokesperson Caroline Smith.

Almes said OHS’s biggest hope for the community is for it to be maintained, in a neat, secured package. Or for someone to purchase it and follow through with a careful plan. The Bourne Mansion, which is a Lessing venue, is one example of a successful use of a historic building, she pointed out.

“As much as it is beautiful, you have to find the right person,” she said.

Sutherland said the county did have measures to address tax arrears.

“After three years of arrears in property taxes, the county can proceed with taking residential property and after one year in arrears, we can start proceedings for commercial and vacant land,” Sutherland added. “If we do take it, property owners have six months to take it back. Usually, they start paying.”

Sutherland said the county and Islip Town have been discussing the property and what steps to take. “The hope is that they [Mercury] step up and pay,” he said.

A fire marshal has been sent to inspect the property three times, including over the last month, and Islip Town received an email response from Mercury International (Hong Kong) on June 1 indicating they would take care of the condition of the property.

“Should the property owner not comply, a resolution to clean the property would be presented at the July 21 town board meeting,” said Smith on Friday.

In addition, appearance tickets would be issued once the courts are open.

Piccirillo attended several semesters at Dowling College himself and remembers hanging out between classes. “It was just one of those great places,” he said. “Getting there early to watch the rowing team, it was very well kept.

“It’s a shame to see it go downhill.”


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