The Vessel, the maze of stairs in Hudson Yards that closed four months ago after several people were killed there, will reopen on Friday with measures in place to reduce the risk of suicide.
But related companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, said that would not increase the height of the barriers along the sculpture’s walkways, a change that a local community council had advocated and research has shown would be one way. effective deterrent.
Instead, security will be tripled and visitors will no longer be allowed to climb the steps of the ship on their own. Those who wish to climb the tangle of interlocking stairs of the 150-foot spiral sculpture will need to enter in pairs or groups.
Staff will also be trained to watch for behaviors that could indicate a person is considering self-harm, a spokesperson for Hudson Yards said. Tickets – which were previously free but will now typically cost $ 10 – and signs will carry messages discouraging suicides.
Lowell D. Kern, the chair of Community Board 4, which covers the region, said that while any changes were welcome, the board was disappointed that the developers had not gone further.
“We don’t think it’s good enough,” Mr. Kern said. “The only way to avoid future tragedies is to raise the height of the barriers. “
Since the ship opened in 2019, three people have died after jumping off the structure, a cyclone of copper-clad walkways that sits in the center of Hudson Yards on the Far West Side of Manhattan.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/ressources for a list of additional resources. here is what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.
The sculpture, designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio, is an imposing honeycomb whose 154 interconnected flights of stairs and 80 landings have attracted tourists drawn to the physical challenge and the views of New York City and the Hudson River.
The ship was widely regarded as the centerpiece of Hudson Yards, a $ 25 billion project that was the largest private mixed-use development in U.S. history. Although the structure has been decried as an eyesore by architecture reviews, some inhabitants of the city and at least one Emmy nominated television series, visitors did not object: thousands of people flocked there every day before the pandemic brought tourism to a halt.
But the developers closed the ship to the public in January after two people were killed there in a month. The third suicide had taken place less than a year earlier. The three victims were young adults, who all came to the ship on their own, officials said.
Townspeople and critics had raised concerns that the ship’s design could pose safety risks long before it closed. The barriers along the stairs are waist-high, and in 2016 Audrey Wachs, former associate editor of The Architect’s newspaper, warned that “When you build high, people will jump. Mr Kern said the community council had urged related companies to make design changes after the first suicide.
After the ship closed in January, the related companies consulted for months with suicide prevention experts, security experts and some local politicians on ways to limit further suicides at the site, a spokesperson said, refusing to provide further details.
Visitors to the ship will usually need to purchase tickets in advance, although entry for the first hour of the day remains free. The proceeds will be used to pay for the additional security.
On the back of the tickets, a message developed with the Born This Way Foundation, a non-profit organization created by singer Lady Gaga that offers mental health resources, will remind visitors that “each of you matters to us, and for so long. others “.
A sign at the entrance of the structure will provide information on the national lifeline for suicide prevention. Those who try to enter on their own will be turned away, although group tours are available to connect those who visit solo.
Barbara Stanley, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University who has studied suicide prevention, said the ship’s policy of requiring guests to be escorted could help. Having a supportive friend or relative to turn to can often help people struggle and recover from suicidal thoughts, she said.
But Dr Stanley also said adding or increasing physical barriers to the ship would likely be the most effective way to reduce suicides there.
“That would be the best way to do it,” she said. “That’s the long and the short of it.”
Studies have shown that fences and barriers can be effective in stopping or reducing suicide attempts. In the New York City area, suicides and suicide attempts both declined at the George Washington Bridge after an 11-foot-high fence and netting was installed in 2017. New York University barriers installed around the atrium of one of its libraries in 2012 after several suicides.
A spokesperson for Related declined to say whether barriers had been considered, but said the company believed its modifications would make the ship safer while remaining true to its design intent.
Mr Kern, of the community council, said he thought Related’s decision to leave the barriers in place might be aesthetic. (Heatherwick Studio returned a request for comment to Related.)
“I understand that the ship is considered a work of art and architecture, and there is a certain aesthetic involved with that,” he said. “But you’re trying to balance an artistic aesthetic versus losing life, and there’s no choice there.”