It has long been a goal of mine to relate a remarkable time in my life. It was alternately the greatest failure, and the greatest victory I have been involved with. It forced me out of my comfort zone in so many ways, it was transformational. I learned that I could do more than I thought I could. A lot more. I learned to look at the overwhelming and impossible and start to work the plan. I also learned the lesson from “What About Bob”. Baby Steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Here is some background. There are so many interesting things about this tale, I hardly know where to begin, so I will begin with Shlomo. What is Shlomo? Shomo is not a what, Shlomo is a who. He is a Hoboken businessman who works in the same CAD and CAFM profession that I do. I met him at an Archibus Conference in Boston back in the late 90’s, when I still lived in Michigan, and was a CAFM consultant for CFI in Detroit. I noticed his name tag and said “Shlomo, that means Solomon in Hebrew”. He was somewhat surprised that a gentile would know this. He confirmed that I was right and we began to speak about the Hebrew language, and his native country, Israel. I found him to be a fascinating person, and I really enjoyed his accent, sense of humor, intelligence, and history. This was an unusual man. I didn’t see him for five years.
Fast forward to 2002. I was now living in Northern New York and had started a CAD business with a friend of mine. I had been able to re-establish contact with some CAFM companies, and one of them agreed to let us provide them with drawing services. This proved to be very successful. We were now seeking additional work, and I thought of Shlomo. I did a few small jobs for him. One day I got a call from him out of the blue. “Tom, have you ever measured buildings with laser measuring devices?” I told him that I had, back in Michigan. It is a straight forward procedure: measure walls, doors, and windows in a structure and draw them in AutoCAD. The buildings I had measured were all on the smaller side, around 60,000 square feet. He told me that this was a large hospital in Brooklyn. I was eager to do a job like this, and I sent him a proposal based upon the best estimates I could gather. I was to learn a great deal about estimating a measuring job at the hands of my Master Teacher. His teaching instrument was Woodhull Medical Center. The name strikes fear and love into my heart to this day.
I was from Detroit, so cities were not a big deal to me. I was not intimidated by the prospect of spending a few weeks in New York City measuring a building. It sounded like a fun challenge. In addition, I had worked at a world class Health Care Facility for fourteen years: Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak Michigan. I was ready for this. I thought. I drove to New York City and met Shlomo at Woodull. My first impression was that this was not a Beaumont, this was not Royal Oak, and this is a very, very, large building. Woodull is a very imposing structure: ten stories tall, exceeding 725 feet in length, and located in the infamous Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. It has an uncanny resemblance to a factory, and was named the fourth ugliest building in NYC by Gallerina. There are several public housing projects that surround the hospital, and there are always people hanging out in front of it. It is clearly a landmark, and an institution of great importance to this community. I began to have some reservations about the job, but I didn’t want to back out now. That decision was to have a profound effect on me. The Woodhull project brought me down into a deep horror of depression, self loathing, and despair. But ultimately, Woodhull became one of the greatest victories of my life. It is a fascinating story, and I have needed to tell it for years.
This is the first of the Woodhull Chronicles.