Eco-friendly advocates may see more green for the park known as Udalls Cove.
Councilman Paul Vallone, Borough President Melinda Katz and state Sen. Tony Avella are allocating a combined $710,000 toward acquiring more land for the 30-acre inlet of Little Neck Bay, which has marshes and wetlands inhabited by various wildlife and plants.
The money will allow the city to purchase and add to the park the “Callender Property,” which is a vacant 11,800-square-foot site near Sandhill Road that borders the park, at the request of the nonprofit Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC).
“This will preserve the future and expand the area [of the park],” Vallone said. “We don’t have many spaces left like that.”
A house was on the property until 2006, when it was demolished. Recently the site hit the market for sale and members of the UCPC, which has been advocating to protect the wetlands since 1969, has been hoping to purchase it out of fear that a buyer will want to redevelop it.
Potential developers of the site may try to build a large home, meaning it would tower over the park, and debris and materials from the construction could flow into the wetlands, potentially harming the environment, said Walter Mugdan, president of the UCPC.
“If those properties were ever allowed to be developed, it will waste all the money the city has put into Udalls Cove,” Mugdan said. “Suddenly the park would be ruined. It would destroy the ecosystem.”
A variety of wildlife inhabits Udalls Cove, including egrets, herons, ducks, geese, swans, raccoons, foxes, osprey, many kinds of fish, frogs and turtles.
Since officially recognizing Udalls Cove as a park in 1972, the city has acquired private lots around it and expanded it. The Parks Department currently has identified about a dozen other parcels that it wants to buy from private owners. Together it would take a few million dollars, according to Mugdan, so they have been focusing on buying some at a time.
Vallone and Katz are allocating $250,000 each, and Avella will allocate $210,000. The UCPC and another neighborhood organization has collected about $45,000 to help purchase some more parcels. Mugdan said the asking price for the “Callender Property” is $575,000, so they should have enough.
Besides the potential of harm from construction, Mugdan said that since the home was torn down nature has reclaimed the land, and plants and animals now call it home. They want to preserve the area that way.
“In urban areas, preserving the wildlife space that we have should be among our top priorities as elected officials,” Avella said. “Udalls Cove is home to several species of plants and animals that need our help to ensure that their habitats are not disturbed.”