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Bankrupt Dowling College's Campus Goes Up For Auction In Suffolk County

OAKDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Dowling College's final chapter is being written as the campus goes on the auction block.

Last August, the college in Suffolk County on Long Island suddenly went belly up. It's being sued by creditors, vendors, faculty, staff and students.

CBS2's Jennifer McLogan visited the college Tuesday, reporting it was a dreary day on the Dowling campus, and due not just to Mother Nature.

The bankrupt college could soon be carved up. An auction of its prime property is set to begin.

It's anchored by an immense 110 room William Vanderbilt mansion, which was built by the billionaire at the turn of the 20th century.

"The woodwork on the inside, the fireplaces, the staircases -- it's no wonder brides were fighting to have their weddings here," Steven Birkeland, of the Oakland Historical Society, said.

The Oakdale Historical Society is petitioning the town of Islip, asking that the treasured buildings of the old estate be designated for landmark protection. If sold piecemeal, or torn down to make way for the new, the potential for change to the area is unlike any in the last half century, McLogan reported.

"It's going to be lost," Howard Baron said.

The Baron family lives in what was once the gardener's house.

"The whole area here was once part of the estate," he said. "The railroad station was built so he could have his daughter wed and a carriage could take them down to the mansion."

The main campus on the Connetquot River is in Oakdale. Its aviation program, additional dorms and athletic fields are in Shirley. The college owns an island near Smith Point Park, as well as 32 residential properties.

David Pennetta, Executive Director of Cushman and Wakefield in Melville, said it's not out of the realm of possibility that it could remain a campus.

"Other countries are kind of sick of having all their best students leave and come into the United States. So they are now opening up campuses here," he said. "It's something that we're sitting back, waiting to see who the successful bidder is."

The deadline for sealed bids for 25 acres of the main campus, once known as the Idle Hour Estate, is Wednesday. The auction is set for April 4.

Dowling College's bankruptcy petition includes more than 625 claims totaling $66 million for those who have stake in the liquidation of the shuttered school.

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