Brooklyn Navy Yard companies produce medical face shields for city hospitals

Workers making face shields in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

A trio of Brooklyn Navy Yard companies are producing tens of thousands of medical face shields to protect the city’s health workers against the novel coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The firms began making the protective headwear out of an impromptu factory in a hangar on the grounds of the Fort Greene industrial park, bringing more than a hundred of the companies’ employees back to work after their businesses shut down due to the pandemic outbreak, according to one manufacturing bigwig.

“Last week I was laying off staff and shutting down my factory and on Saturday afternoon, we started developing face shields that were approved by DOH,” said Michael Bednark, the chief executive officer of Bednark Studios, a fabrication company that normally creates pop up shops and installations for brands like Nike and Google.

Bednark partnered with Duggal, another Navy Yard firm that prints photographs and produces other visual installations, as well as co-working space company Newlab.

None of the three companies previously produced the protective gear, but they worked with city Health Department officials to make sure their design was up to code, according to Bednark. 

The three organizations aim to make between 15,000 to 18,000 of the plastic masks per day and plan to complete 50,000 by Saturday and 120,000 by Tuesday. The city will then buy the masks from the companies and distribute them to hospitals across the Five Boroughs, according to officials.

De Blasio praised the companies and the workers for stepping up to the plate within less than a week.

Mayor de Blasio toured the factory on March 26.Photo by Kevin Duggan

“Six days ago, none of this existed, no one even had the idea and bang, there’s a production line right now,” de Blasio said during a visit to the makeshift manufacturing facility Thursday afternoon. “This is like a wartime factory, a factory from scratch.”

Hizzoner plans to unveil similar city-based production of much-needed ventilators and other medical equipment soon, he said.

“We’ll be showing you this week how ventilator production is starting as well,” he said. “Whether it’s face masks, the surgical masks, ventilators, you’re going to see a lot more produced right here.”