After three-and-a-half years of committee meetings, city negotiations, community outreach efforts, temporary patches, and much public and private debate, Cornell University will begin to install nets on the gorge bridges next week in an effort to deter suicide attempts.
Plans for some type of barriers began soon after three Cornell students committed suicide by jumping into the gorges within a month of each other in spring 2010. Temporary chain-link fences were erected and then replaced with less obtrusive black fencing, and a public debate began over whether nets were the most effective way to prevent suicide.
In November 2011, the City of Ithaca and Cornell were sued for $168 million by the father of a student who leaped to his death from the Thurston Avenue Bridge, which is owned by the city. The suit alleges that given the long history of suicide in the gorges — including 27 successful attempts between 1990 and 2010, 15 of which involved university students — Cornell and the city were responsible for not preventing Bradley Marc Ginsburg from taking his own life. The lawsuit is still pending.
In December, Common Council agreed to let Cornell put netting below the three-city owned bridges. The project was given final site plan approval by the Planning and Development Board that same month. A deal was brokered in which Cornell agreed to be responsible for maintenance and inspection costs on all the nets, regardless of whether they are installed on university-owned or city-owned bridges.