Climb Vessel, Take a Vesselfie

Postcards from the first weekend at New York City's newest playground, Hudson Yards

A strange sound greets you when you enter Hudson Yards: the whistle of the wind coming from the Hudson River, trapped by the three-sided plaza.

The wind was so strong Saturday, the first weekend for the $25 billion real estate development, that people sitting in the plaza for lunch struggled to hold on to their food.

It’s almost deafening, but neither the sound nor strong winds on Saturday could scare New Yorkers from reveling in Manhattan’s newest playground or climbing its centerpiece, the Vessel.

By noon on Saturday, 2000 people had already climbed the structure. Vessel, designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick and commissioned by Hudson Yards’ billionaire developer Stephen Ross, is a 150-foot vertical maze of steel and concrete.

At the end of the day, Vessel had seen about 11,000 climbers.

“It picked up around 4 p.m. when the sun started setting,” said Charlie, a Related employee who could not reveal his last name, as he ushered the line snaking around Vessel’s 50-foot base.

“I think people saw the evening photos online and realized that’s the best time to come,” he added.

A sign outside the entrance warns climbers to leave strollers on the ground. Vessel’s designers had an elevator custom built to accommodate wheelchair users and others unable to make the climb. But the structure is made entirely of steps, with no ramps for wheelchairs to maneuver once inside.

Many people, however, convened at the structure’s base for what will surely become a must-have for tourists in New York: the Vesselfie.

To take a Vesselfie, climbers place their phones on the base of the structure, then crowd around the camera with their friends and snap a photo with Vessel’s rim in the background.

Once they’ve taken their Vesselfies, climbers who venture to the structure’s many levels are treated to a view of the shopping center to the east, a still unfinished performance art space called The Shed to the south, the older buildings of Midtown West to the north, and the Hudson River to the south.

Looking south toward the river, the eye is drawn to the rail yards that gave the development its name. Hudson Yards was built on a platform over the train tracks connecting New York Penn Station to New Jersey.

Some corporate tenants, including Warner Media and the Related Companies, which developed Hudson Yards, have begun to move in. Inside the mall, many luxury brands like Christian Dior and Brooks Brothers were still closed.

“I don’t think we expected this many people, not just at Vessel but also in the shopping center,” said Charlie.

Related will be issuing one-hour tickets to climb Vessel for the foreseeable future, to keep the crowds within the structure’s maximum capacity of 700 people. Tickets have to be booked two weeks in advance, but leftover slots will be released daily in the plaza.

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