By Mark Hallum
For decades, Udalls Cove Preservation Committee President Walter Mugdan has worked to reinvigorate a wild patch of land in the preserve. The mostly Parks Department-owned land in northeast Queens, which is pieced together from donations made by land owners, has operated since the ‘70s, going from shipyard to wildlife haven with the help of volunteers and advocates. Now, Mugdan fears money may be the deciding factor in whether a piece of property within the preserve is developed by its landowners.
The parcel at 8112 block, lot 70 is near the ravine portion of the preserve near 43rd Avenue and 247th Street. According to Mugdan, the owners came to him and offered to donate the land if their tax lien is forgiven by the holder or if the holder is reimbursed by the Parks Department. The onwer of the land is a company known as Reslade, according to OasisNYC. Reslade owes about $23,000 in taxes to the third-party lien holder, Mugdan said.
Udalls Cove is currently looking for a way to make sure the tax lien issue lands in its favor, Mugdan said. But Reslade’s owners expressed their intention to build housing on the land if they are not allowed out of their tax lien obligation.
“The city has an absolute commitment to making sure this land is not developed,” Mugdan said. “This whole area is designated as a city park and a nature preserve, and it would be completely inconsistent to that commitment to allow it to be developed. So there is no doubt about the intentions, it’s just a matter of when is the money available, and how can this legally be done to take care of this tax lien issue.”
One concern for Mugdan is the possibility Reslade does not find a favorable resolution on its tax lien, and instead teams up with the neighboring plot owner to build a road to the land, which currently does not have access to existing roadways.
Former Mayor Ed Koch expressed interest during his term in including the 17-acre ravine portion of the cove in the preserve, Mugdan said. Although the land is deeply sloped, it would not be impossible to develop.
“We’re all very excited at the prospect of seeing this donation go through. Our organization has been urging the city to complete the acquisition of the properties within the designated boundary of Udalls Cove,” Mugdan said. “With every additional parcel that gets acquired, we’re closer to that ultimate goal of protecting this area once and for all.”
Udalls Cove has seen its share of hardship in the past year.
On April 24, a group of youths went into the preserve and set its prized osprey nest on fire. It was not clear to Mugdan how many eggs were present in the nest at the time, but one witness said the reaction of the parent birds was a difficult sight.
“It was really heart-wrenching to see these birds flying around trying to get to their nest,” the resident of the area said. “It’s hard to get your head around what these kids were thinking to just burn down a nest that is likely to have baby birds in it. I just don’t get it.”
A reward for information about the three individuals who started the fire jumped from $500 to $4,000 within a matter of weeks, but the identity of the suspects remains a mystery.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall