NYU Local

Should designs be altered to dissuade jumpers?

In 2003, in two separate incidents, two students at New York University committed suicide inside the tall atrium of the university's main library by jumping from its open, inward-facing balconies. Officials responded to the tragedies by installing Plexiglas barriers around the edges of the balconies. In 2009, another student climbed over those barriers to make another deadly leap. Now, the university is hoping a new cage-like installation of fencing along these balconies will finally stop people from killing themselves inside this building.

You can surely understand the reasons officials are not referring to the new fencing as a suicide barrier. But that's what it is. And many other places are building or considering similar projects to prevent recurring suicides.

Cornell University and Ithaca, New York, will be installing safety netting under bridges in the area in response to a similar spate of suicides among students. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, officials have decided to install suicide prevention fences on a local historic bridge when renovations are made in 2014.

This issue is of concern nowhere more than San Francisco, where the Golden Gate Bridge is said to be the world's most common site for suicide, with more than 1,500 recorded deaths since its opening 75 years ago. There have been calls for decades for a net to be installed on the bridge that would catch any jumpers and, ideally, prevent people from even thinking about jumping in the first place. Plans to install such a net are currently in the works, and $5 million has been dedicated to prepare a design for the suicide deterrent. But, as critics are quick to point out, that still leaves a hole of $45 million to complete the project.

Expensive, sure. But it's also a project that would likely dissuade people from jumping off the bridge. It would also change the appearance of the bridge, one of the most iconic in the world.

Projects like these do raise broader questions about whether designs should be altered in order to stop these tragedies from recurring. Three people committing suicide in one NYU building is inarguably awful. But as long as there are tall buildings and bridges, determined people are going to jump off them. Should every potential suicide site be retrofitted – or designed form the start – to prevent that potential?

Top image courtesy NYU Local

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  2. A photo of a Family Mart convenience store in Japan.
    Life

    The Language Debate Inside Japan's Convenience Stores

    Throughout Japan, store clerks and other service industry workers are trained to use the elaborate honorific speech called “manual keigo.” But change is coming.

  3. Equity

    The Life and Death of an American Tent City

    Over a period of seven months, a vast temporary facility built to hold migrant children emerged in the Texas border town of Tornillo. And now, it’s almost gone.

  4. An animated world map shows dramatic changes in land use from 1700 to 2000.
    Environment

    How 300 Years of Urbanization and Farming Transformed the Planet

    Three centuries ago, humans were intensely using just around 5 percent of the Earth’s land. Now, it’s almost half.

  5. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.