Annual cleanup effort refreshes Udall’s Cove

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Dressed in grub gear and standing at the bend of Little Neck’s Sand Hill Road, Udall’s Cove Preservation Vice President Walter Mugdan Saturday spread his arms to the surrounding vernal marshland he and 30 others had come to clean.

“Every year there’s less garbage to pick up,” he said. “When we started 32 years ago, they pulled out 17 car wrecks from in there,” he said, sweeping his hand across what was now the lush green reserve.

During the outdoor committee meeting few discussed the recent oil spill, which several weeks ago seeped into Little Neck Bay and the cove from a Bay Terrace apartment building.

Also present at the meeting were state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) City Councilman Mike Abel (R-Bayside) and council candidate Dennis Saffran, whom Abel introduced to the preservation committee as his preferred successor.

“That’s a subtle hint, ladies and gentlemen. Subtle like a sledgehammer,” Abel said.

Abel took the occasion to bid his constituents an early farewell and to brief them on the City Council’s plans for Udall’s Cove. Half a million dollars had been allocated by the city for the restoration of Aurora’s Pond, which was inadvertently drained when workers punctured an essential layer of clay beneath the pond’s surface.

Aurora’s Pond, named for Udall’s Cove resident and longtime environmentalist Aurora Gareiss, who died last year at 91, had covered nearly an acre. It has been reduced to a puddle.

The workers had come to remove a buildup of silt from the hillside when they accidentally “pulled the plug on the bathtub,” Mugdan said. The project is expected to begin toward the end of the year or early next year, Mugdan said, and upon completion should restore the pond to eight-tenths of an acre.

Abel said he had also requested from the city an additional $1 million to purchase more property for the Udall’s Cove reserve. Although he cautioned against high hopes, he said he has “every indication from the administration that they’re in favor of it.”

Because of the vast progress in cleaning up Udall’s Cove, Mugdan said the committee and volunteers these days are fanning out to farther points in the reserve and covering a larger area than they had during past years.

This year, the Udall’s Cove Preservation Committee also began awarding the first Aurora Gareiss certificates to local school children as part of a youth outreach program. The awards were presented to students from PS 98 and St. Anastasia’s by Padavan Friday.

“Aurora had a basic feeling about our responsibilities as human beings,” Padavan said. “It’s something we need to work to protect.”

Not far from Sand Hill Road, 15-year-old Dennis Savage collected trash from a sun-bathed patch of field. This was the second year he and his family had participated in the Saturday early morning clean-up.

“It’s helping out the community, so I guess that eases the pain,” he said.

Reporter Kathianne Boniello contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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