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Avella allocates $2M for Udalls Cove Ravine purchase

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Now local preservationists hope that a recent $2 million allocation in the city's 2005 budget can be used to buy most, if not all, of the remaining 4.5 acres of the Udalls Cove Ravine to complete the city's acquisition of the lands for use as a public park.The Parks Department said that it worked in conjunction with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), and state senator Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) to secure the money."We're very, very pleased and really grateful to Councilman Avella and the city administration that worked cooperatively and got this into the budget," said Walter Mugdan, president of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee. "Senator Padavan had also encouraged the mayor to do this. We are hopeful that with this additional $2 million, the job that was started 30 years ago will be, if not completely finished, then close to finished."On July 22 Avella announced $2 million had been allocated for the cove in the city's next fiscal year budget. "This may be largest single allocation the city has ever done," Avella said Monday. "I pushed for the money. I made this a priority for my district, and that my district gets its fair share of money.""The Parks Department has been working to protect Udalls Cove from development for the past 30 years," said Parks Comissioner Adrian Benepe in a statement. "Thanks to the commitment of Mayor Bloomberg, local elected officials and the community, we will be able to preserve this important land for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers."The city began acquiring the nearly 120 acres of the cove in 1974, after the state Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that the area should be protected from development.The cove has two different types of land, Mugdan said. "There are two chunks. The bigger piece is what we call the wetlands, the freshwater and saltwater marshes, and virtually all of that has been completely acquired," he said. "In addition, there is the Udalls Cove Ravine, and the ravine is about 14.5 acres of what we call uplands, woods instead of marshes. That's the area where the city only owns about 45 percent of that area."Avella said that in the 2003 city budget, he had helped restore a $1 million allocation that had been revoked. Last year the city allocated $350,000 for the acquisitions. Mugdan said these recent allocations had helped the city begin to acquire four more acres of the ravine in the last two years, leaving only 4.5 acres that have not yet been purchased. "There's still about 25 percent (of the ravine) still to go," he said. "We hope this $2 million that is in the 2005 budget will go a long way to purchasing the remaining 25 percent."If the $2 million turns out to be inadequate for purchasing the remaining 4.5 acres, the rest will have to wait for an allocation in the fiscal year 2006 budget to finish the acquisition.Avella cited the city's ongoing dedication to preserving the cove. "It has been a longstanding commitment of the city and state to acquire these lands," he said. "Preservation is extremely important to me and my constituents. It's also important because of development pressures that exist today, so it's crucial that we acquire this land as soon as possible." But the cove's transformation into a public park will not begin until all the parcels have been purchased, Mugdan said. "Acquisition is the highest priority," he said. "Once the whole park has been acquired, then we can turn our attention even more to doing additional restoration work."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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