Detail Oriented: The Floating Hospital’s Construction Project Manager Gets it Together



There are two ways of looking at a complex project such as The Floating Hospital’s new clinic construction: Either God or the devil is in the details. The first suggests paying attention to small things reaps big rewards, and the latter implies what looks simple will require more time and effort than anticipated.

Whether devilish or holy, those details are in the realm of The Floating Hospital’s construction project manager, James Barry, MSCM, who ensures they are executed according to plan.

Barry has been at the clinic since March, liaising between The Floating Hospital’s leadership, the architect and general contractor and the various tradesmen on site. His other institutional projects have included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center and NYU’s Kimmel Center/Skirball Theatre, but this is his first large project in healthcare.

“It’s a whole other paradigm,” he said, noting that working with an organization focused on poor populations adds a layer of humanity and need that requires particular attention.

Clear from the onset was a “really strong understanding of what was needed for patients and staff,” he said. Barry works directly with The Floating Hospital President Sean Granahan and Chief Medical Officer Shani Andre to make sure that the clinic’s vision of care is translated in the physical space.

The internal staircase connecting the main reception floor to the upper levels is both a physical and emblematic example of that. Rather than enclosing it with opaque materials, the architects designed a glass-paneled staircase that complements the open reception area and maximizes the natural light from the multi-story windows. Symbolically, it offers a light-filled passage to the exam rooms—a small but important detail that eases what could be a frightening journey for children on their way to see the doctor.

“It is unusual that the head of an organization is also very knowledgeable about design features, can make decisions in a thoughtful way, and appreciates that some things take a little more work to come out the way they were envisioned,” Barry said.

Photo of reception area in new clinic

His tasks range from minutiae such as ensuring mosaic tiles are properly installed and coordinated according to color scheme (each department is color coded) to monitoring specifications and protocols for infrastructures such as HVAC, sprinkler, electrical and safety systems. And, most important, keeping workers and inspections on schedule.

“I have a conversation every day with every contractor and person who’s impacting the job on what’s supposed to happen and how to stay on track.”

But even once Barry “turns the keys over,” the job isn’t over—at least not for the staff who will occupy a space twice the size of the current clinic equipped with modern systems.

“The biggest challenge with any space is learning how to use it,” he said. “It’s like buying a new car: There should be instruction manuals for all the technical things, [because] you’re not going to be driving in the car with them.”

“It takes time and work to make everything happen, but with projects like this, when you get to the end, you can see the thread running through it and the way care is woven throughout.”

The project, he said, gave him pause about the “inequities in the city and the generalizations make about people living with displacement.”

“When you start to think about it while working in this context, you realize how things are stacked against people and how important it is that things change,” he said. “Having healthcare is a right that everyone should have, and this space and concept bring that idea front and center. I think other facilities are going to see this and ask why can’t they do this.”

In addition to staff who volunteered their time and family members, The Floating Hospital thanks the following for their support: Multi Diagnostic Services, United Healthcare, Direct Relief, Dreamland Inc. for bras and sleepwear, Ramona Prioleau from Framiati; and community volunteers Danielle Brecker, Julia Forman and Lillian Kim.

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The Floating Hospital provides high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration or insurance status, or the ability to pay. By providing unrestricted medical care in tandem with health education and social support to vulnerable New York City families, The Floating Hospital aims to ensure those most in need have the ability to thrive, not just survive.


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