A 14-year-old jumped to his death Thursday afternoon, July 29, from the Vessel in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. The teenage boy became the fourth to die by suicide at Thomas Heatherwick’s 150-foot spiral staircase since it opened in March of 2019. The site was closed once again to the public, just two months after it reopened with new safety regulations. It had been closed since January after two suicide incidents occurred at the site within one month. Steven Ross, the billionaire developer of Hudson Yards, told the Daily Beast that the tourist attraction may never be opened again.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) said that the teenager was found in front of the Vessel around 1pm and was pronounced dead at the scene. He had leapt off the structure’s eighth floor while visiting Hudson Yards with members of his New Jersey family. The family witnessed the tragedy as it occurred, police told the Daily News.
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Despite warnings by architects and recurrent pleas from the community, the Hudson Yards developer Related Companies has persistently ignored demands to raise the height of the structure’s guard rails, which are about waist-high. In May, the company reopened the controversial site with new safety measures, chief among which was to require visitors to enter with at least one companion and changing its free admission policy to $10 per ticket. The company said that it had also tripled its security staff and trained it for suicide prevention in addition to posting signage discouraging suicide and offering help for people in distress.
“We are heartbroken by this tragedy, and our thoughts are with the family of the young person who lost their life,” a Hudson Yards spokesperson said in a statement to the press. “We are conducting a full investigation. The Vessel is currently closed.”
“We thought we did everything that would really prevent this,” Ross said in an interview with the Daily Beast yesterday. “It’s hard to really fathom how something like that could happen. But you know, I feel terrible for the family.”
Lowell D. Kern, chairman of Manhattan’s Community Board 4, has urged the developers to redesign the Vessel’s barriers since the first suicide at the site in February of 2020.
“This was entirely preventable,” he told the New York Times after yesterday’s tragedy.
“The community board has advised Related that the only surefire way to prevent this from happening is to raise the height of the barriers on the Vessel,” Kern added. “We sincerely hope that this time Related will take all this to heart.”
Related Companies and Heatherwick Studio have not responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment.