A ‘Wartime Factory’ in Brooklyn Is Fighting Coronavirus

The old Navy Yard’s manufacturers, including printers and distillers, have pivoted to making urgently needed face shields and hand sanitizer.

By Corey Kilgannon

During World War II, so many New Yorkers flocked to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to build warships that it was nicknamed the Can-Do Shipyard.

In recent years, it has become a hub of independently owned and innovative manufacturers that include artisanal distillers and industrial metal fabricators.

But with the coronavirus ravaging New York City, the old Navy Yard — one of few large manufacturing centers remaining in the city — is again pitching in during a national crisis as a hub for fighting the pandemic, producing desperately needed medical supplies, such as face shields, hand sanitizer and hospital gowns.

It has returned to “a wartime factory,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio as he toured a former shipbuilding hangar there on Thursday.

“This is what people had to do, in battles, in wars, all over this world when there weren’t going to be supplies coming from someplace else,” the mayor said. “They had to make their own. That’s what’s happening here in Brooklyn.”

That hangar had become an events space called the Duggal Greenhouse, part of Duggal Visual Solutions, a graphic display and printing company that typically makes printed glossy graphics for such brands as Estee Lauder and Coach.

But with the greenhouse’s scheduled events canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the space has been repurposed as a factory for making disposable face shields. The operation includes more than 300 workers, many recently laid off from restaurant jobs or nonessential businesses that the state ordered to temporarily close.

Duggal has partnered with another Navy Yard company, Bednark Studios, to make the shields.

“This isn’t about making money. This is about helping put people back to work and helping front-line medical workers who are saving New Yorkers,” said Michael Bednark, whose custom fabrication company typically makes interior displays for restaurants and retailers including Heineken, Nike and Google.

Leaders at the Navy Yard have been scrambling to get various companies to work together to make supplies.

Kings County Distillery, a small-batch whiskey and bourbon company, has begun distilling alcohol for hand sanitizer in partnership with EcoLogic Solutions, which makes green cleaning products, said David Ehrenberg, president of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

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