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Neighborhood group patrolling vandalism-ridden property that once was home of Dowling College

LI neighbors patrolling shuttered Dowling College campus for vandals
LI neighbors patrolling shuttered Dowling College campus for vandals 02:16

OAKDALE, N.Y. -- Once a grand, historic estate on Long Island's South Shore, it's now a regular target of vandals, and fed-up neighbors are pleading with the property owner to do something about it.

The Oakdale property, which was later turned into Dowling College, is now just a magnet for vandalism.

They spend days and nights patrolling the now-shuttered Dowling campus. They're not paid security. They are resident volunteers angered by what's become a playground for crime.

"Just last Sunday, as an example, we had at least six separate multi-people groups ... trying to kick in or use a tool. They had a brick in their hand. As you've seen, they busted every window they could bust," said Mike Burke of Idle Hour Neighborhood Watch.

"Apparently, for no reason, people just feel they have to break things. Just go around shoot off fire extinguishers, smash book cases," the group's Steve Donovan added.

FLASHBACKVandalism on land formerly occupied by Dowling College has local residents fuming at company that bought the property

At the center of 25 acres is a waterfront mansion built by William Vanderbilt in 1901. Since Dowling College went belly up seven years ago, vandals have stolen or wrecked much of it. The latest insult? An arrested teen admitted he was inspired by a TikTok challenge targeting historic buildings.

"Watch me rip this molding off the wall. It's horrendous, and the community is appalled,' said Maryann Almes, president of the Oakdale Historical Society.

They are also angry at the private owner of the property -- multi-billion dollar China-based Mercury International. Residents have had to pay to install a dozen hidden security cameras, which recently captured images of alleged vandals.

"We maintain them. We operate them," said David Chan of the Oakdale Civic Association.

The cameras have led to five arrests in two weeks, which is progress since CBS2 first reported about this plight two years ago.

Suffolk police now regularly patrol the area.

"Suffolk PD has been phenomenal. The Town of Islip has been working with us. We want Mercury to be a good neighbor. I don't think we're asking for much," Chan said.

"Why did you buy this? If you can't maintain it, sell it to someone who will," Almes added.

The property manager told CBS2 the company is working with police and is encouraged by recent arrests. He declined comment on future plans for the property, adding, "They are doing their best considering the economics of the situation," but wouldn't elaborate.

Residents say if this is their best, they need to do better.

The Islip town supervisor said she is equally frustrated with a foreign entity that is "doing the bare minimum to protect this jewel of our community, and continually find ways to skirt the repercussions."

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