Shannon Finnegan’s Anti-Stairs Club Lounge in front of Vessel (photo by Maria Baranova, courtesy of Shannon Finnegan)

In a deal with US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the Vessel in Hudson Yards has agreed to install a special platform lift that will increase accessibility for people with disabilities, prosecutors announced on Monday.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, announced in a statement yesterday that the companies Related Companies L.P. (“Related”) and ERY Vessel LLC have agreed to install a “one-of-a-kind platform lift mechanism” on the upper levels of the Vessel.

According to the prosecutors, the United States contends that as constructed, the Vessel is inaccessible to individuals with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Vessel’s upper levels, where 360-degree views become possible, are its most traveled areas. These areas are currently inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.

The Vessel’s current design offers individuals with disabilities access at most to three of the structure’s 80 platforms, all on the south side of the structure. The Vessel’s single elevator reaches three platforms and visitors must otherwise climb the stairs to move among the platforms.

The prosecutors added that due to the high demand for the elevator, Related has at times directed that the elevator skip the platforms at levels 5 and 7, thereby leaving only one platform (at level 8) accessible to individuals with disabilities.

“I’m highly skeptical of any attempts to make the Vessel accessible because inaccessibility is its organizing principle,” artist and accessibility activist Shannon Finnegan, told Hyperallergic in an email. “But it is gratifying to see this small acknowledgment of its access failures.”

In April, Finnegan, together with her group the Anti-Stairs Club Lounge, organized a demonstration of disabled and non-disabled individuals at the Vessel to protest the structure’s limited accessibility. “While Vessel does have what is touted as an ‘ADA-compliant’ elevator, the elevator is not an equitable means to experience the structure,” she told Hyperallergic in an interview at the time.

The new agreement requires Related to ensure that the elevator stops at levels 5 and 7 upon request, to operate the elevator on a pre-set, timed schedule, and to modify the Vessel’s ticketing reservation options to allow individuals with disabilities to reserve priority access to the elevator.

“Related has agreed to commit substantial resources to install a platform lift that will allow individuals with disabilities to enjoy 360-degree views from the Vessel’s top level,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, added, “As we approach the ADA’s 30th Anniversary, it is vital that individuals with disabilities have access to major new tourist attractions in our cities.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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