Cheers erupted in the streets of Manhattan early this morning after news broke that the Hudson Yards Vessel will soon be a thing of the past. In a joint statement today, the Vessel’s designer Thomas Heatherwick and Hudson Yard’s developer, Related Companies, announced that the 150-foot-tall copper-clad staircase will be dismantled for safety reasons. Instead, a digital rendering of the structure will be sold as a non-fungible token (NFT) in an auction next month. Earnings from the sale will be used to cover the costs of disassembling the structure.
“Though we believe that the Vessel is a widely misunderstood public artwork, we made the difficult choice of removing the structure,” the statement said. “We’ve heard the concerns of the community and came to the conclusion that the Vessel in its current form poses a risk to public safety. We believe that a digital rendition of the project would celebrate its legacy without endangering lives.”
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Three people have jumped to their death from the Vessel since it opened in March of 2019. Architects and local residents have long warned that the low barriers guarding the structure’s 154 stairways increase the likelihood of suicide attempts at the site. Related Companies had repeatedly shuttered the site due to these tragic incidents, each time promising to review its safety protocols.
“It’s long overdue,” said a Manhattan resident who works in Hudson Yards in an interview with Hyperallergic. “I prayed for this day since 2019. This so-called artwork, which looks like a burrito from hell, was not only visually offensive but also dangerous.”
Another passerby told Hyperallergic that the Vessel had haunted her in her dreams, causing recurring nightmares.
“It was like being stuck in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo,” the New Yorker described her nightmares. “I’d feel trapped and suffocated with no way out.” The resident said she started a support group for people who have experienced similar Vessel-induced nightmares. “I thought I was the only one who had these nightmares until I met more people who have been haunted by this monstrous site.”
But not everyone has such strong feelings against the Vessel. A selfie-taker at the site told Hyperallergic: “Low-key, I think it gives me a pretty good glow.”
While some have congratulated the Hudson Yards developer for its decision, others have criticized the choice of minting a rendering of the dangerous tourist trap as an NFT. The crypto art form has been criticized for its steep environmental impact, as the Ethereum blockchain on which they run uses excessive amounts of carbon.
“The Vessel will continue to harm the community in other ways,” said New York-based anti-NFT advocate Mikah Arahsib. “Instead of enriching itself even more, Hudon Yards should be giving back the money it stole from Harlem communities via questionable tax breaks.”