Industry City businesses pivot to producing protective gear for health care workers

industry city
Several clothing companies at Industry City have begun making personal protective gear to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Swimwear designer Malia Mills manufactures bathing suits in Sunset Park’s Industry City. But when the COVID-19 outbreak took hold, Mills was faced with shutting down operations.

Instead, the designer pivoted to producing hospital gowns — and now, Malia Mills and a handful of other neighboring companies are churning out 5,000 gowns a day that are turned over to the Economic Development Corporation for distribution to medical institutions that request them. In total, the clothing companies make about 65,000 protective coverings per week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the Industry City factories on April 22 and marveled at the businesses’ “wartime footing” and their ability to quickly churn out desperately-needed products.

“You spend time with healthcare workers and right now, it’s been two months in hell for them,  so difficult, so painful and challenging,” de Blasio said. “We didn’t know how bad this would get, and then we were fearful that we might not have enough personnel, PPE, ventilators — and you never stopped what you were doing because now it’s about protecting the heroes and allow them to do their life-saving work.”

Over the last several weeks, the mayor has visited several other companies citywide that are producing personal protective equipment, such as gowns, face masks, and hand sanitizer. Factories at the Brooklyn Navy Yard have mobilized to manufacture plastic face shields, medical gowns, and other PPE, while many breweries have begun producing hand sanitizer. 

Mayor de Blasio said he is seeking to have all protective gear made locally, since the national stockpile has proven inadequate, and the city has been forced to bid against other cities and states to obtain supplies from out-of-town manufacturers.

“None of us would’ve imagined that trying to find hospital gowns would be nearly impossible for our front-line workers,” he said. “This is an amazing industry — the heart and soul of New York City.”

Steven Salem, president That’s My Girl, one of several companies that have joined in the effort, said he focuses on making workers feel safe and ensuring proper social distancing. Every worker is wearing masks and using gloves when possible, he said.

“That’s what it’s all about in NY, we give and help each other and bring people in,” Salem said.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.

industry city
Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the factories on April 22.Photo by Todd Maisel