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The Vessel must take preventative measures

T.Tseng | Flickr

The Vessel, Hudson Yards’ spiraling staircase sculpture, will reopen this year, with a new addition: a mesh safety net. The tourist attraction first opened in 2019 but shut down in 2021 following a series of suicides. It is instrumental that projects such as the Vessel install preventative measures to minimize fatalities.

The first suicide occurred within a year of the building’s opening in February 2020, when 19-year-old Peter De Salvo jumped to his death. Following De Salvo’s death, three more individuals died by suicide at the Vessel, including 24-year-old CUNY alumna Yocheved Gourarie. a former Macaulay Honors College student. She shared her final words through a scheduled Instagram post the day after her death.

Following the announcement of the building reopening with suicide safety barriers, many have questioned why these preventive measures were not put in place earlier. It certainly wasn’t due to issues with the budget, considering that the building’s development was a part of the Hudson Yards’ $25 billion project, and “was the largest private development in American history when it first opened,” according to The New York Times.

Since the building’s initial opening, the public and experts have voiced concern about the risks of suicides, but it largely fell on deaf ears. When the Vessel reopened in May 2021 following the first two suicides, the developers, Related Companies, did not install any suicide barriers “as a local community board and suicide-prevention researchers had called for,” the New York Times reported.

Even employees of the Heatherwick Studio, responsible for designing the Vessel, reported the developer’s refusal to install barriers, despite the creation of them. The New York Times spoke to an employee from the studio in 2021.

We designed safety barriers for the Vessel a while back,” said the employee, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “It’s now time to install these.”

The developers’ and designers’ ignorance has led to suicides that could have been easily prevented. Installing the new mesh barriers is a step in the right direction, but it might be too little, too late.

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