On December 22, 2020, a 24-year-old CUNY alumna, a former honors student and valedictorian, tragically ended her life at the Vessel at Hudson Yards, the iconic sculpture dubbed the “crowned jewel” of the Hudson Yards luxury real estate development, NYC’s top travel destination. Her untimely death was not the first, nor would it be the last to occur at this 150-foot (16-story) steel and glass walkable structure before it was “temporarily closed to the public,” with minimal public accountability or transparency from the developer of Hudson Yards, the Related Companies. The first was the death of a 19-year-old college student and rugby star on February 1, 2020. The third was the January 11, 2021 death of a 21-year-old man from Texas – three suicides at the Vessel within one calendar year.

Devastated by the loss of one of our very own, the best and brightest of CUNY, and her final words in a scheduled Instagram post published on the day after her death, CUNY student leaders have joined this brave soul in amplifying the acute and deleterious impact of mental health conditions that have disproportionately affected and claimed the lives of our fellow students, only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This resolution, the first of its kind, having been jointly passed by the University Student Senate (USS) of the City University of New York and the Doctoral and Graduate Students’ Council (DGSC) of the CUNY Graduate Center, marks an unprecedented collective stand for mental health services as a human right. 

The USS and DGSC stand with our fellow CUNY students in holding the luxury real estate industrial complex, City of New York and New York State, as well as the United States Congress, publicly accountable for the divestment of economic, social, and public health programs and services at the expense of our working-class communities of color up to and including at the expense of the lives of our classmates. The Vessel and Hudson Yards, the largest and most expensive urban megaproject in U.S. history, tower as gleaming symbols of unchecked capitalism. We, as CUNY student leaders, are committed to upending these capitalist and racist institutions of injustice. 

We stand in unwavering solidarity with our community of Harlem, home to our flagship CUNY institution, the City College of New York, along with CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, CUNY School of Medicine, and Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. The corporate greed that has claimed the lives of three young people and eroded the livelihood and resilience of one of America’s most quintessential urban communities marks a nefarious pattern of divestment from urban communities across the five boroughs – communities that about 500,000 CUNY students, victims of an ever-burgeoning luxury real estate hegemony call home. This neoliberal pattern of siphoning off investments from communities who need it most has had pernicious reverberations in urban and rural communities across this nation; it has not begun here, but it ends here.

Together we reside in the great loss and in infinite solidarity with the bereaved families of the three young lives lost at the Vessel, the public who witnessed their untimely deaths, the community of Harlem, and all our communities that we believe deserve better. This is our steadfast promise and Demand for a Safe Vessel at Hudson Yards. We pledge to demand no less than a reckoning, that the same corporate and state actors that have profited from our communities, reinvest in massive expansion and sustained funding in community-based infrastructures for accessible, equitable, and culturally responsive public mental health and social services for our CUNY students and the communities we call home.🌹

The full text of the resolution is available on the website here.