Coney Islanders manufacture and deliver protective gear to struggling hospitals

mask donation
Coney Island volunteers delivered thousands of masks and gloves to Brooklyn hospitals on April 8.
Photo by Erica Price

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to lay siege on Brooklyn, charitable residents on the People’s Playground are working to manufacture and deliver protective gear to Brooklyn hospitals.

One group, led by City Council candidate Steven Patzer, delivered more than 5,000 masks, 10,000 gloves, and nearly 500 meals to five hospitals and one police precinct on April 8.

“I’m grateful to be healthy enough to serve my community and gather support from the community during difficult times,” he said. “I’m even more grateful for the first responders who need and deserve protective equipment and our gratitude.”

The group, which received the donations from local businesses and families, gifted more than 1,000 masks to Coney Island Hospital, Maimonides Medical Center, and NYU Langone, as well as dozens of pizza pies, snacks, and a Carvel ice cream cake. The team also dropped off protective gear, snacks, and cake at New York Community Hospital, the Brooklyn VA Medical Center in Bay Ridge, and the 68th Precinct, Patzer said. 

Meanwhile, the family that owns Coney Island’s famed Deno’s Wonder Wheel has been hard at work manufacturing face shields using 3-D printers, which they have been donating to healthcare workers. 

Deno Vourderis, whose grandfather bought the Wonder Wheel in 1983, uses the 3-D printer to manufacture obsolete parts for the 100-year-old Wonder Wheel and other old rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. But since the amusement park’s opening is indefinitely postponed, Vourderis has used the machine to print medical visors — and has already made more than 100 in the last two days.

I had 3-D printers, and I said there has to be something I can do with these,” he said.

Vourderis said he makes the shields using templates he found online.

“Everybody supplied these designs free, they were all open source, easy to download,” he said. “It really is so heartwarming to see some many people from so many different countries coming together for a common cause.”

Vourderis’ wife, who delivered the shields to local hospitals, was distraught by type of protective equipment medics were provided, Vourderis said.

My sister dropped off a box the other day because she started crying. She said, ‘They’re wearing garbage bags,'” he said. 

The donations provide a needed boost to local hospitals, which have been running low on personal protective equipment for weeks. Emergency workers at Coney Island Hospital and other medical centers are only given one face mask per week in order to conserve the hospital’s small supply, medics have said.

To boost the number of masks available, the Food and Drug Administration recently allowed medical centers to use a more widely-available mask, China’s KN95 mask, to treat COVID-19 patients. But despite the change, New York City hospitals still report a critical shortage of gear, USA Today reported.