HOMETOWN HAPPENINGS: Tragic Day at the Mall

BY GEORGE HOEHMANN

Supervisor, Town of Clarkstown

The Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack welcomes 21 million visitors each year, attracting both Clarkstown residents as well as shoppers from across the region. It’s one of the biggest malls in the nation and a major shopping and tourist hub for Clarkstown, Rockland and the metropolitan area.

This past week, another tragedy occurred when a woman took her own life by jumping over the railing on the fourth floor. This week’s incident marks the seventh such occurrence since 2005. Of these seven incidents, six have been suicides and one has been ruled an accident. I’m sure you’re wondering, what, if anything, can be done to prevent these tragic incidents.

For years, I’ve been advocating for enhanced security measures to help prevent accidental and intentional deaths of this kind. While the Palisades Mall works in conjunction with the Clarkstown Police Department on security measures, I believe more can and must be done to prevent these types of occurrences in the future.

In 2014, I publically called for the Palisades Center to raise hand railings and increase awareness. Raising the railings would make it harder for people to climb over the barriers and possibly give bystanders and first responders more time to intervene. Other preventative measures to consider include those that have been proven to work in other high-risk locations. For example:

  • Telephone access to mental health professionals.
  • Limiting access to dangerous locations on the upper floors by obstructing patrons’ access to the railings by installing decorative barriers.
  • Installing signage throughout the third and fourth floors, providing awareness about available resources.
  • Installing limited safety nets in high-risk areas.

The measures above are part of a comprehensive plan to find a solution. I think we also need to look at changing the state building codes to require higher railings at locations such as shopping malls and other high-risk locations as well as require reviews by the State Office of Mental Health, after multiple fatalities have occurred at a specific location.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people a year. In the coming weeks, I plan on meeting with Palisades Mall management to discuss these safety measures. If these measures save even one life, they will have made a difference.

If you or anyone you know needs help, please reach out to the Rockland County Mental Health Behavioral Response team, available 24/7, at 845-517-0400, or the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.