The Vessel in Hudson Yards, Manhattan (Wikimedia Commons)

When the Vessel opened in March of 2019, it was seen by many as an aesthetically challenged symbol of corrupt opulence and suspicious financing. But now, for the third time in less than a year, a person died by suicide after leaping from the 150-foot-tall structure at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. The divisive site has shuttered indefinitely after the most recent incident on Monday, January 11.

The deceased was identified as Franklin Washington, a 21-year-old man from San Antonio, Texas. His death came just weeks after a 24-year-old woman from Brooklyn jumped to her death from the Vessel on December 21. In February of last year, a 19-year-old New Jersey man died at the Vessel in a similar fashion.

A spokesman for Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, told the New York Times that the structure was “temporarily closed” and that the company was consulting with suicide-prevention experts and psychiatrists about how to curb the phenomenon. However, the chairman of Manhattan’s Community Board 4, Lowell Kern, told the newspaper that the site will likely stay closed indefinitely.  

Related Companies has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the 15-story copper-clad structure quickly became a tourist attraction after it opened in 2019. But since the pandemic started, its 154 stairways and 80 landings remained largely deserted.

Critics had warned about the likelihood of suicide attempts at the Vessel long before it opened. Audrey Wachs, a former associate editor at the Architect’s Newspaper, wrote in 2016: “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.”

In March of 2020, just a few weeks after the first suicide at the site, Community Board 4 sent a letter to Related Companies, urging the firm to do more than suicide prevention training of its security staff and consulting with suicide-prevention experts, which it had promised at the time.

“Because the Vessel’s chest-high barrier is all that separates the platform from the edge, the likelihood of a similar, terribly sad loss of life cannot be ignored,” the letter reads.

According to Kern, the developer seemed hesitant to alter the design of the Vessel, which is considered a work of art. In an interview with the Times, the chairman asked: “After three suicides, at what point does the artistic vision take a back seat to safety?”

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...