150-Foot Vessel Sculpture at Hudson Yards Closes After 3rd Suicide

The Vessel, the spiraling staircase at Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side, was closed to visitors on Tuesday, a day after a 21-year-old man jumped to his death in the third suicide at the sculpture in less than a year.

It was unclear when the 150-foot structure would reopen to the public. A spokesman for the Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, said the firm was consulting with psychiatrists and other suicide-prevention experts about steps it could take to limit the potential for future suicides.

The closing came as the police identified the man who killed himself on Monday morning as Franklin Washington of San Antonio. His death came weeks after a 24-year-old Brooklyn woman ended her life by leaping from the Vessel on Dec. 21.

Last February, a 19-year-old New Jersey man jumped from the Vessel in the first suicide at the site, with witnesses describing hearing screaming as onlookers realized what had happened.

A Hudson Yards employee who was at the site on Tuesday said he had witnessed the suicide on Monday as well as the one in December.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” the man said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The Vessel was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio. The creators describe it as an interactive artwork with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. Visitors are encouraged to climb it to experience the expansive views it offers of New York and the Hudson River.

The structure was considered a major tourist draw for Hudson Yards, a $25 billion project that is the largest mixed-use private development in U.S. history. After opening to great fanfare in 2019, the development now faces an uncertain future as a result of the pandemic’s effect on everything from tourism to office work and has been largely empty for months.

Visitors and critics have raised concerns that the Vessel’s design could pose safety risks. Audrey Wachs, the former associate editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, wrote in a 2016 critique: “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.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) 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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