Hudson Yards ‘Vessel’ Sculpture Will Reopen With Netting After Suicides


Nearly three years after a series of suicides shut down the Vessel, the 150-foot-tall centerpiece of the Hudson Yards complex in Manhattan, the project’s developer said on Friday that it would reopen this year with new safety measures.

The beehive-shaped sculpture, with a labyrinth of about 2,500 steps and 80 landings, opened in 2019, along with much of the rest of Hudson Yards, a gleaming development in Midtown West. Not long after, in February 2020, a 19-year-old died by suicide there.

Over the next year and a half, three others died by suicide there as well, including a 14-year-old boy in 2021, prompting the developers to close off access to the stairs.

The attraction will reopen once “floor-to-ceiling steel mesh” has been installed on several staircases, said Kathleen Corless, a spokeswoman for Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards. The measure will preserve the “unique experience that has drawn millions of visitors from around the globe,” the company said in a statement.

The reopening, first reported by The New York Post, will take place sometime this year.

On Saturday morning, tourists craned their necks against the chilly wind to take in views of the massive, brassy art piece. Although it was still closed, a careful look at its third floor showed an initial section of the upcoming changes: black mesh, resembling a fish net.

Simon Pierre, 37, a high school teacher visiting from Montreal, said it reminded him of factories in China where the owners installed nets after a wave of suicides. “It’s sad that it’s needed,” he said.

Teresa Vasilopoulos, 64, who works in social services in Toronto, wondered if a suicide hotline phone might help, in addition to the netting. “It’s such a shame not to have it,” she said.

Her friend Darlene Boddy, 66, a dental hygienist, noted that the Prince Edward Viaduct in Toronto had also added netting and a suicide hotline phone. She said the netting “kind of spoiled the aesthetic” and predicted that it would have a similar effect on the Vessel.

The scalable Vessel, created by the designer Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio, forms the heart of the $25-billion-dollar Hudson Yards project, which was the largest private development in American history when it first opened. But even before the Vessel was finished, critics voiced concerns about safety.

In 2016, an associate editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, Audrey Wachs, wrote that “as one climbs up Vessel, the railings stay just above waist height all the way up to the structure’s top, but when you build high, folks will jump.”

Members of the public also repeatedly called for additional safety measures to be installed over the years.

After the third suicide in 2021, the Vessel closed for four months and reopened with tripled security and a rule against ascending the stairs unaccompanied. But the developers refused to raise the height of barriers along the sculpture’s walkways, something community members and a local community board had been pushing for.

Two months later, the 14-year-old died. At the time, an employee of Heatherwick Studio said that it had designed safety barriers and expressed frustration with the developers’ resistance to installing them.

The steel mesh enclosures will be added to about half of the attraction’s traversable area, with barriers on four stairwells and adjoining platforms, Related Companies said. The first two levels will remain fully open, while the top level will stay closed.

Justin Tavarez, 22, who works at a Starbucks store almost underneath the Vessel, said on Saturday that he remembered the ecstatic first impression he had of the structure when he climbed it shortly after it opened. That was quickly tempered when a co-worker described watching someone die at the structure.

The netting “should’ve been done the first time,” he said, adding, “the world we live in, of course stuff like that’s gonna happen.”

Sill, Mr. Tavarez was excited to hear that the Vessel would reopen.

“I’ll definitely be going up,” he said.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.

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