Five months have passed since the Obama administration shut down the Norwich House, a Russian compound in Upper Brookville, when Russia was allegedly cyber-meddling with the 2016 presidential election. Now, the Russians may return – President Donald Trump announced last week that he’s considering to reopen the mansion.
The Soviet Union purchased Norwich House in 1952 as a vacation retreat for its diplomats. The $9,350,400 mansion, as listed by Nassau County’s assessment records in December, sits on 14 acres and contains 36 rooms and an in-ground pool. Upper Brookville Mayor Elliot Conway said that if the Russians were allowed to return, he wouldn’t be surprised to see them back sooner than later. “I do believe that Upper Brookville is one of the best places in America to raise a family and it’s a great place to live,” he said. “If that’s why they want to come back, then I would feel the same way.”
Conway has been a neighbor of the Norwich House for 21 years. He said the Russians have always been quiet, peaceful neighbors and that there’s no reason to suspect illegal activities during their years in the village. He added that the U.S. Department of State would keep him informed on whether the Russians will be permitted to return.
State Sen. Carl Marcellino said he’s “not too keen” on the Russians returning. “I don’t trust the Russians as far I can throw a baby grand piano,” he said. “The way things are going now, I don’t think I would bend over backwards for them and I don’t think anybody’s missed them.”
Marcellino believes the Russian diplomats were using that home — along with other properties they own — as a listening and an observational post to spy on the U.S. government. He said the mansion would better suit a family from the village.
Local resident Liz Berens, who currently lives near the mansion, said that her family has historical ties to the home. Her grandfather was former state governor Nathan Miller. He was the last owner of the mansion before the Russians bought it. Berens’ parents Eleanor Miller-Carmody and Francis Carmody held their wedding at the mansion in 1937. Berens last visited the mansion about 15 years ago when the caretaker allowed her and a friend, who was Russian, to tour the house. She believes that there was some sort of illegal activity at the dwelling. “After I visited the home that day I was interviewed by the FBI,” she said. “They met with me and asked questions about what I saw ... The FBI certainly knew that there was espionage going on there, but the Russians have fought it for a very, very long time.”
Berens also believes that this information has been common knowledge for years. “I don’t think that the FBI knows all the contents of what’s going on, but I’m sure they’re aware of it,” she said.
Trump’s administration will consider activity restrictions at the Russian compound before making a final decision, including removing diplomatic immunity from the property – without it the mansion would be treated the same as any other building in the United States and law enforcement could enter the home.