Nothing seemed off in the quiet village of Old Brookville, home to some of Long Island's elite. The windy tree-lined streets were quiet, everyone was peacefully celebrating the holidays on their estates. At the Elmcroft Estate (also called the Norwich House), everything seemed normal. The old brick mansion was built for Governor Nathan Miller in 1918. However, for $80,000, the Russian government reportedly bought the estate as a place for diplomats at the United Nations, located around 40 minutes away, in New York City.
On Thursday, December 29th, President Obama made one of his last moves as Commander-in-Chief. After confirming the hacking of the 2016 election by the Russian government, President Obama announced he will place sanctions against the Kremlin. This included the closing of two Russian compounds on the United States East Coast. Within the next few hours, multitudes of moving fans and government marked vehicles were seen leaving the estates carrying unknown items.
Knowledge of the compound was mixed. Some old timers knew that the Russian government-owned it while others were completely shocked. "I've been here for years and no one really knows their neighbors," said one resident who spoke with Odyssey on the condition of anonymity. "I don't know how someone would know that Russians owned the property." This is understandable as driveways are nearly a mile long and each piece of land contains insane amounts of acres.
Yet, there was one resident, Judith Berkheimer, who rents the cottage across the street from Elmcroft. She confirmed that—before she stayed on the top floor—the FBI rented it and had devices set up to listen and see into the compound. "I guess they didn't get much," she told Odyssey, six years later. The FBI later left the residence.
NBC News reports that the hacking did not come from this estate (or those located in the U.S.). The other estate is in Maryland—about 60 miles from the nation's capital: Washington D.C. What is known is that the government was reportedly aware of the Russian presence and monitored the property throughout the Cold War and after. NBC described the estate as a place where diplomats held secret meetings.
Many Long Islanders were expecting the larger, more well-known Killenworth, a mansion in Glen Cove, New York to be closed. Killenworth has been featured in the news plenty of times. Purchased in 1951, the house was also a retreat for diplomats. However, many problems arose there. For starters, the City of Glen Cove has had numerous battles with the Russian government over their residency. The city believes they should be paying taxes like everyone else in the 1980s. With that, the city terminated the use of tennis courts, beaches, and parking passes to the Russian diplomats. The response: the Kremlin terminating the use of beach to US embassy workers in Moscow.
Later restored tensions still were strong as protesters often gathered outside forcing Glen Cove to beef up police presence. This was, of course, not reimbursed by the Russian government. Besides for financial difficulties between the Russians and Glen Cove, it has also been reported the top floors of the mansion were used to spy on Long Island's technological industry in the 1980's.
With the closing of the estates, Russian officials will not force any U.S. diplomats to leave. President-Elect Trump was quick to say Putin was "smart" by doing so.
The Kremlin has said they felt the closing of the estates was unfair especially to the children during the holiday season.