A New York City landmark may be closing permanently after it’s struck by tragedy, again. The Hudson Yards’ Vessel has been beset by woes since it first opened to the public in 2019. After another person took their life on the city landmark, its billionaire developer is mulling over shutting it down permanently. 

The Vessel’s Fourth Suicide 

Hudson Yards' Vessel

News broke Thursday that no one wants to read: a 14-year-old boy killed himself by leaping off the Hudson Yards’ Vessel. The city’s landmark has been the site of three other suicides – and it only opened in 2019. New York Post reports, “The tragic teen leaped from the eighth story of the structure at West 33rd Street and 10th Avenue and was pronounced dead just before 1 p.m., police and sources said.

‘We are heartbroken by this tragedy and our thoughts are with the family of the young person who lost his life,’ Hudson Yards spokeswoman Kimberly Winston said in a statement.

‘We are conducting a full investigation. The Vessel is currently closed.’”

The young boy was visiting with his grandmother, parents and sister when he leapt to his death. Reportedly, he said nothing before jumping. 

The landmark had only recently reopened after being closed earlier this year following a veritable rash of suicides. 3 in just over a year’s time, with the newest one making the fourth in 2 years. The structure had reopened in May with a number of rules designed specifically to prevent suicides. For instance, no one was allowed to ascend alone – visitors are required to go in groups of two or more. And spotters stand on each level keeping an eye out for anyone in distress. They did not, however, raise the height of the barrier railings and had been warned in the past that the new restrictions would not be sufficient. All four of those who died were between the ages of 14 and 24. 

History of the Hudson Yards

The Hudson Yards development has been thus far a beacon of ingenuity and growth, earning the title of largest private real estate development. The sprawling development includes office towers, apartments, a self-contained plaza with a shopping mall and of course the Vessel itself, a 150-foot winding staircase structure. 

In the past, the location for the Hudson Yards development was a hub of downtown activity, and the site sits atop a train yard owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The first phase of the Hudson Yards development opened in 2019 along with the Vessel, but the second phase is ongoing. Architectural Design shares, “Hudson Yards is a 28-acre mixed-use development on Manhattan’s far West Side, bound by 34th and 30th street to the north and south, and by Tenth Avenue and the West Side Highway to the east and west. The development is unfolding in two parts. The first phase, Eastern Yard, is home to eight new buildings, including residential and commercial skyscrapers, public gardens, a massive shopping mall, and the Shed cultural center. Though specific design details have yet to be revealed, Western Yard will include additional residential, office, and retail space, as well as an elementary school. When both phases are completed, in 2025, the development will encompass more than 18 million gross square feet of built space, with nearly 14 additional acres of open public space.”

The futuristic development is sleek and modern but quite generic. It doesn’t have the feel of any city in particular and functions as its own mini-city. It’s considered a model for other urban development projects, so it’s likely that more cities will soon have their own versions of the massive site. However, everyone’s image of the development is now tainted by the Vessel’s tragic history, one that raises questions about the structure’s future. 

Is It Closing Down Forever?

Hudson Yards' Vessel

The newest heartbreaking and breathtaking tragedy at the Vessel has raised questions about whether or not it’s safe to keep open. Daily Beast reports, “Stephen Ross, the billionaire behind Hudson Yards, says the development’s marquee art installation might close for good following the latest suicide.

‘We thought we did everything that would really prevent this,’ Ross told The Daily Beast. ‘It’s hard to really fathom how something like that could happen. But you know, I feel terrible for the family.’”

It’s unclear at this point if there’s anything they can do to make the structure safe, or what makes it so appealing to those desperately battling suicidal ideation. What is certain is that closing the Vessel again for now is the only choice they can make. With the mental health infrastructure in the United States flailing under the weight of the pandemic, reopening the Vessel may not be something they can safely do for some time, if ever. For now, any decisions to close the Vessel again comes too late for one Jersey family, forever broken by a split-second tragedy.