Walter Mugdan, the longtime president of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, was actually awarded the medal last July, but wasn’t available to receive it. He was among four northeast Queens civic leaders to be honored by State Senator Tony Avella in 2017.
“This is pretty impressive,” he said when he received the medal. “It looks like Olympic gold.”
Mugdan has worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1975, and currently serves as acting deputy regional administrator for Region 2, which includes New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
He oversees hazardous waste cleanup and emergency response programs, such as the cleanup of toxic sites like the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek and the Hudson River.
But in the northeast Queens community, Mugdan is known for his advocacy for conservation at Udalls Cove. Since 2005, the civic leader has managed restoration projects at the cove valued at nearly $250,000.
Mugdan continues to this day to fight for city and state officials to acquire more private properties within the designated boundary of the cove. On Friday, he met with Avella after the ceremony to discuss possibly acquiring a nearby site.
“There are about four to five parcels, that maybe total three acres, that still have to be acquired,” he said.
Though Udalls Cove is just a narrow sliver, Mugdan said it’s a “rich habitat” that contains woodlands, freshwater wetlands and saltwater wetlands.
“It supports a lot of different kinds of animals, including a fox family,” he said. “You step 50 feet away from Northern Boulevard and suddenly the noise goes away and you’re in a wooded area. It’s kind of nice.”
Since 2002, Mugdan has also served as president of the Westmoreland homeowners association. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Mugdan grew up in Douglaston and now lives in Little Neck with his wife and daughter.
State Senator Avella called Mugdan a “stalwart” throughout his community advocacy.
“The amount of time and effort he has put in on behalf of the community, you can’t put a value on that,” he said. “Our community, and the city and the state as a whole, is better for his participation and his efforts.”