Good morning. It is Wednesday. We will be looking at a court ruling stating that Happy the Elephant does not have the same rights as a human being. We’ll also look at Mayor Eric Adams’s planned approval of Governor Kathy Hochul and his blueprint for tackling the city’s housing crisis.
It is one of the most fundamental principles in Western law: habeas corpus. The New York State Supreme Court says it doesn’t apply to Happy the Elephant.
The court, by a vote of 5 to 2, rejected an animal conservation organization’s request to recognize Happy as a legal entity and release her from “unlawful confinement” at the Bronx Zoo, where she has lived since 1977.
Habeas corpus — a safeguard against wrongful detention — is a procedural instrument “intended to protect the freedom of people,Janet DiFiore, the Chief Justice, italicized the last two words. While she said habeas corpus was “flexible,” extension to Happy “would go way beyond its limits.” She said it “didn’t apply” to “a non-human animal that is not a ‘person’ subject to illegal detention.”
Judge Rowan Wilson, one of the two dissidents in the Happy the Elephant case, said the court should award habeas corpus to Happy “not just because it is a wild animal that is not meant to be caged and displayed, but because the rights we grant to others define who we are as a society.”
My colleague Ed Shanahan writes that the ruling ended what appeared to be the first case of its kind to reach such a high court in the United States. And it probably won’t calm the debate about whether intelligent animals should be seen as anything other than things or property.
Happy’s case was argued by the Nonhuman Rights Group, who wanted to move her to an elephant sanctuary that it believed would provide a more natural environment and improve her quality of life. “She’s a depressed, twisted elephant,” said Stephen Wise, the group’s founder, before the decision was made.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoo, said before the ruling that Happy was “well cared for by professionals with decades of experience and with whom she has strong connections”, adding that the case amounted to “blatant exploitation”.
Stephen Gillers, a professor at the New York University School of Law, said the decision was correct.
“I think animals in captivity need protection, and maybe the legal laws need to be tightened up to make sure they’re properly protected,” he told me. “The seals in the Central Park zoo seem pretty handsome to me. They know when the food comes. For each species, you could gather evidence of a level of intelligence that justifies legal protection through the courts.”
“This,” he said, “is too nuanced for judicial regulation.”
But Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School attorney who filed a memorandum in support of Happy’s case, called the court’s decision “disappointing but not surprising.”
“I regret what this means for Happy the Elephant,” he told me. “It is a case of judicial blindness for the court to say that because we have not recognized the rights of living and social animals such as elephants, we cannot extend habeas corpus to them.”
Enjoy a sunny day in the low 80s. At night, prepare for a chance of showers, with temperatures dropping to the mid 60s.
ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING
Valid until Monday (June 14).
An 11 o’clock approval for Hochul
In her campaign for a full term in office, Governor Kathy Hochul has drawn the support of nearly every major Democrat in New York State except one — Mayor Eric Adams.
Adams plans to announce his support for Hochul today. My colleague Nicholas Fandos writes that it is an important last-minute approval that could help her strengthen voter support in New York City as the June 28 primaries approach.
Adams said in a statement shared with DailyExpertNews that Hochul was “a true partner, working on behalf of everyday New Yorkers.” He said he and Hochul had realized that “we shared the same priorities” to improve public safety and access to childcare and housing and make New York more affordable for working people.
He said he looked forward to continuing to work with Hochul “for years to come.”
How much difference the voter approval will make likely depends on whether Adams participates fully in the political network that landed him the City Hall job. Hochul has struggled to get through and spark enthusiasm among black voters in Brooklyn and Queens and Latino voters in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx who supported Adams last year and long formed the basis of winning Democratic coalitions statewide.
A plan to solve the housing crisis
Mayor Eric Adams has drawn up a blueprint to increase homeownership, reduce street homelessness and improve public housing. But housing associations say his housing budget, $1.8 billion a year less than he promised when he ran for mayor, won’t be enough.
Adams said the success of his plan would depend on how many people the city would put into housing, though he repeatedly declined to set a specific target. “As many people as possible,” he said. “I don’t play these songs.”
To do that, he called for the expansion of affordable housing by creating new incentives for developers to build housing units. He wants the city to try new ways to keep existing units under the market. He also promised modest increases in city programs that subsidize and support homeownership.
He released the plan the day after the city council approved, negotiated with him, a new city budget that will add $5 billion in affordable housing programs over 10 years. That will bring the city’s total investment in affordable housing to $22 billion over that period — a record amount, but at $2.2 billion a year, well below the $4 billion he asked for during the campaign last year.
The mayor’s plan also calls for significant improvements in the quality of life at the New York City Housing Authority, which has 400,000 residents in the city.
Adams said the plan reflected feedback from tenants, the homeless and stakeholders in the real estate industry. He also cited personal observations from his six months as mayor, including an unverifiable claim that he spent a lot of time in homeless camps.
Reaction to the plan has been mostly favorable from groups representing landlords, who emphasized its pledge to reduce bureaucracy. Proponents of affordable housing complained about a lack of courage.
I was rushing out of the Canal Street station when I saw him: a teenage boy bent over a table and origami rose origami folded to sell.
The roses—blue, yellow, red, and every color in between—spread around him in piles four or five flowers deep.
I was late, so I didn’t pause. But as I walked away, I wondered how he would fare that day. I hadn’t noticed anyone else giving him a cursory glance as they left the station. How often does he make a sale? Was he here every weekend?
Later in SoHo, I followed a man and a woman who moved slowly, their little fingers joined together. My eye fell on a blue origami rose sticking out of her backpack.
I smiled. It was a twofer: a sale and love in one.
— Connie Long
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here†
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — JB
PS Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and game match† Here you will find all our puzzles†
Melissa GuerreroJeff Boda and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday..
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