Since the 150-foot-high folly, the Vessel, opened in March 2019 in Hudson Yards, the luxury real estate development on Manhattan’s far West Side, four people have died jumping over its waist-high glass barriers. After the third suicide last January, the $250 million climbable tourist attraction designed by Thomas Heatherwick—derided by many critics, but popular with visitors—was closed. When it re-opened two months ago, precautionary measures included a requirement that people visit in groups of two or more, and entry would no longer be free but $10 a ticket. Then last Thursday, July 29, a 14-year-old boy, who was with family members, leapt to his death. Recommendations from the local community board and suicide prevention experts to raise the barriers to at least seven feet had been ignored, according to the New York Times, which also reported that a staff member at Heatherwick Studio said the firm had designed higher barriers but they had not been installed. 

Vessel’s website, which states the attraction is temporarily closed, includes the following anodyne statement: “Vessel is made extraordinary by the people who visit, and by experiencing it with others. Each of you matter to us, and to so many others.”

While Steven M. Ross, chairman of the Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, was said to be weighing permanent closure of the Vessel, far more significant action should be taken: it should be torn down, as New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson, among others, has urged.

Not only does the tragedy of four suicides mark the Vessel, but the idea that this gargantuan chunk of shiny, copper-colored steel is a sculptural amenity for the citizens of New York is the biggest folly of all. It overwhelms the only significant public space in the 12-acre development, which the private planners were supposed to create for the greater good. 

The administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, responsible for the Hudson Yards deal, should never have allowed a private developer to oversee the planning and operation of the mandated six acres of public space. Taking down the Vessel would begin to correct this enormous error in which the public interest was pushed aside. Read more here: March 2021 Editor’s Letter “Civic Lesson.”