Beloved Peacocks Are Retiring From St. John the Divine

Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll meet the peacocks who live on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. They’re about to retire. We’ll also find out about the inflated expense-account claims that led to a guilty plea by the former leader of the New York City sergeants’ union.

Credit…Colin Schappi for The New York Times

This is about preparing for the end of a life. The end of three lives, actually.

The end is not imminent. But the three personalities — Harry, Jim and Phil — are old now. One has arthritis. They need care that they cannot get on the 13-acre spread where they have lived for years.

They are not-very-wild peacocks that strut and preen and roam in a parklike oasis in the quintessentially built-up city. Home is the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, on Amsterdam Avenue at 111th Street.

Sometimes they promenade on the avenue. Sometimes they do a little flying.

But on Saturday, Harry, Jim and Phil will retire to Animal Nation, a nonprofit rescue center and sanctuary in South Salem, N.Y.

“Having them go is a sadness for us, but it’s what’s best for them,” said the Very Rev. Patrick Malloy, dean of the cathedral. “Much as we love them, it’s because we love them” that they are being sent away. “We want them to be happy in the last years of their lives,” he said.

The Very Rev. Patrick Malloy, the dean of the cathedral, with Jim the peacock.Credit…Colin Schappi for The New York Times

Peacocks have lived on the cathedral grounds for 50 years, ever since the Bronx Zoo donated some chicks. Jim and Harry arrived in the early 2000s, Phil a few years later. The three were named for former officials of the cathedral or the adjacent Cathedral School. They got a new residence in 2017, a hutch designed to be consistent with the cathedral’s Gothic architecture.

“They live an idyllic life here,” Dean Malloy said. “People feed them. We feed them. We try to give them exactly what they like, so in addition to foraging for worms, they love almonds and they like kale. It is a superfood. But no matter what, they are still aging.”

Harry was found with a leg injury one morning in the fall. Surgery did not go well. “For the rest of Harry’s life, he’s going to wear a leg brace,” Dean Malloy said. “It has to be custom-made. It’s not like you can go to Birds “R” Us, and it has to be changed quite regularly. We’re not equipped to do that.”

Harry was already at Animal Nation the other day, where the president, Patrick Moore, had been bandaging the problem leg. He said the custom-made braces would be fabricated on a 3-D printer — two braces, so one could be put on as soon as the other was taken off for cleaning.

He said cathedral officials had “made a tough decision when they said ‘This isn’t safe for them, this isn’t a good life for them.’” Harry, Jim and Phil will join five peacocks at Animal Nation, along with 250 other animals, from cows and sheep to llamas.

Dean Malloy said the cathedral was looking into replacing the birds but that there were concerns about bringing in peachicks. The cathedral is also home to red-tail hawks that “like to swoop upon little things,” he said. Young peacocks could be vulnerable.

He said the birds had become an indelible part of the cathedral’s public image. So did Gretchen Connelie, the vice chairwoman of the West 111th Street Block Association, who said she had developed “a special place in my heart for Phil.”

“I moved to this neighborhood in 2019, and somebody mentioned peacocks and I said, ‘Ha, ha, ha, yeah, right,’” she recalled. “I had a dog at the time, and we walked over to the cathedral, and lo and behold, there they were.”


Prepare for more rain persisting through the evening, with temperatures reaching the upper 40s. At night, expect temps in the upper 30s.


In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Lunar New Year’s Eve) and Sunday (Lunar New Year).

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Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times


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Ex-leader of sergeants’ union admits to expense-account scheme

Credit…Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

Publicly, Edward Mullins declared war on Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020 after two officers were shot inside a Bronx police precinct. He posted an unredacted police report on Twitter about the arrest of de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, during protests about police brutality and racial justice.

Privately, prosecutors said, he submitted phony expense reports, inflating what he had actually spent. One entry cited by prosecutors was for a $522.55 restaurant tab. He filed an expense report for an $822.55 item and pocketed the extra $300, prosecutors said. They said Mullins had spent about $1 million on meals and luxury items over 20 years.

On Thursday Mullins, once the powerful and combative leader of the New York City sergeants’ union, admitted to stealing from his members as he pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud. Prosecutors said he had submitted a false report seeking repayment for items he had charged on a personal credit card.

Mullins was elected president of the union for five successive four-year terms, starting in 2002. Around 2017, the government said, he came up with a scheme to fund nonunion expenses with the union’s money. Prosecutors said Mullins paid for a relative’s college tuition and had used his personal credit card to buy expensive jewelry, clothing, home appliances and meals from 2017 to around October 2021.

He doctored the “work copy” of the credit card statements to match the amounts he submitted as expenses, prosecutors said. A court filing last year said, for example, that the “work copy” of his April 2021 credit card statement indicated that he had changed a $45.92 charge from a wine bar in New Jersey to $845.92 and had inflated a steakhouse tab from $609.89 to $909.89.

He filed altered expense reports to the union’s treasurer, rarely providing receipts, prosecutors said.

As a union leader, Mullins became known for bombastic and often profane remarks. In 2020, on Twitter, he used a vulgar term to refer to Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner at the time. And he disparaged Representative Richie Torres, a Bronx Democrat who was then a member of the City Council.

He was later fined $32,000 for violating police rules on the use of social media. The police department said the punishment was in the medium to upper range of the disciplinary actions it could take, but it fell short of the firing sought by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city’s police watchdog.

Mullins retired the same day, about a month after he resigned as head of the union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, after federal investigators raided his home on Long Island and the union’s headquarters in Manhattan.


On Willow Street

Dear Diary:

I was on a walking tour of Brooklyn Heights some years ago. We were outside a home on Willow Street when a woman who was not with the tour and accompanied by two bored-looking teenagers approached me and asked what we were looking at.

I told her the house was where Truman Capote had lived while writing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“Whoa!” she said before snapping a picture with her phone while the teenagers, clearly eager to move along, fidgeted.

I asked the teens if they ever played Grand Theft Auto. The home, I explained, was currently owned by the game’s creator.

“Whoa!” they said simultaneously before snapping pictures with their phones.

— Kevin Zeeger

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Steven Moity and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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