With the pandemic keeping the crowds out of Manhattan for the time being – and I emphasize “time being” – I thought it’d be a good opportunity to visit one of the city’s newest grand achievements: The Vessel. Its story began on March 15, 2019, with great fanfare and ribbon cutting hosted by Anderson Cooper, along with a rendition of the classic ”Manhattan” by Andra Day, and another tall structure, Sesame Street’s Big Bird, to welcome the art piece “to the neighborhood” — a 14 acre section located between 10th and 12th Avenues, from West 30th to West 34th Street, now known as Hudson Yards.
What made the visit a bit ironic is that this 150-foot-tall “Vessel” – a temporary name until a permanent one is chosen – is meant to “lift the public up.” At the opening, British artist and creator, Thomas Heatherwick, heralded it as an art piece truly not complete until residents and travelers from all over are walking along its pathways and up its steps, kind of like a park, but a “tall one.” However on this day, during a pandemic, this “social piece of three-dimensional public space,” stands not really empty, but not packed with tourists looking for a city experience. To me, it was the perfect time to check it out.
My daughter and I made the free reservations on the website and had a specific time to pass through the entry way. With its 2500 individual steps, and 80 landings to take in the views and plenty of handrails, no wonder it’s also known as New York’s staircase. After our QR code was checked, we were given entrance, and I felt a bit like going onto the roller coaster at Coney Island. Up, up, up we went, but with each gentle step, I found the climb quite easy, and since I could stop between flights to take in the panorama that lay before me, the ascent felt effortless.
Every view offers a new perspective on the city, whether looking down at the mosaic of sidewalks, pathways and gardens, or up at the massive new skyscrapers that make up the Hudson Yards neighborhood; to the west I see the trains parked in the terminal, a reminder of how the area was so named.
It’s hard to hear the journey of the Vessel, from its creation in Italy, a 15 day trip at sea, arrival at Port Newark, to a final five hour barge ride across the Hudson River, and not be awed of the remarkable things that can happen when people work together for a common purpose. There’s only one thing missing: a congratulatory sticker that says, “I survived the Vessel climb” to proudly wear as we headed off to a big lunch.
The Vessel which is handicapped accessible is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For reservations, visit the Hudson Yards website.
Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff