Historic Long Island City hospital that provided healthcare on boat rides celebrates 150th anniversary

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Basin Collection

Established after the Civil War to help immigrants and the poor, The Floating Hospital has been providing medical services to those who need it the most for 150 years.

The Long Island City-based hospital started as one of the first “fresh-air” hospitals, and its vessels provided the city’s neediest with a boat ride on the Hudson River while they received basic healthcare services. Founded in 1866, the boat ride was first given to New York Times paper boys for a summer outing after staff witnessed their poor living conditions in the city’s parks.


In 1875, the first Floating Hospital on the vessel “Emma Abbot” was launched and families living in cramped and polluted tenements were able to have a respite from their living conditions while receiving preventive care.

In the next several decades, the organization added a nursery and hospital in Staten Island and services such as health education, dental care, mental health service, domestic violence outreach and land-based clinics in the Lower East Side and the Bronx.

More than 5 million people have been served regardless of their insurance, legal status or ability to pay.

After Sept. 11, 2001, when the vessel was moored at Pier 11, the staff decided to make The Floating Hospital a land-based organization. On-site services at a Department of Homeless Services location in the Bronx were established in 2003 and three years later the main clinic in Long Island City opened.

Today, a Queensbridge clinic provides services to those living in public housing and a primary healthcare clinic will open this month at Astoria-based nonprofit Reality Houses. The Floating Hospital also operates five off-site clinics in homeless shelters in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The organization runs a free transportation program called the Good Health Shuttle, which serves thousands of homeless families and residents of public housing. Every day, a fleet of 10 passenger vans makes 100 trips throughout the five boroughs to give 120 patients – mostly homeless women and children – medical care at the main clinic at 41-43 Crescent St. in Long Island City.

President Sean Granahan said the organization’s commitment to personally reaching out to families who need healthcare the most has been the key to success.

“As the levels of New York City family homelessness rise, The Floating Hospital meets the challenges of providing free care through smarter business models, more expansive outreach efforts, and a commitment to fundraising in its simplest form – personal outreach,” Granahan said in a statement. “These efforts will carry the hospital through the next 150 years as it expands its footprint in Long Island City and other parts of the New York metropolitan area.”

For more information on The Floating Hospital, visit the website.








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