Building 128 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard had its beginnings during World War II where naval vessels were constructed to fight the Japanese and Germans. They now fight a different battle, one invisible to most people, except for its casualties who are sick and dying throughout the nation from COVID-19.
Building 128 is the home to Crye Precision, a huge factory complex where they manufacture combat tactical gear, but now they’ve partnered with other businesses including Lafayette 148 to make hospital gowns for medical personnel at the city’s beleaguered hospitals, overflowing with sick and dying from coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the facility, marveling at the massive production lines where they were cutting and creating hospital gowns, a pivot from their normal operations to meet demand from medical facilities throughout the tri-state area. He was handed a reusable black mask made of cloth with a filter that he put on for the tour, something the factory is also producing on a smaller scale as they have less demand for the hospitals because they are not as effective protection for hospital workers.
“Eleven days ago, we were looking for solutions and answers from every day New Yorker’s in this crisis, and something amazing happened – people stepped up to help protect the front line and first responders,” de Blasio said. “They heard the call and people of all backgrounds came together to create something from scratch – people started making face shields, masks and all types of PPE’s by hand. These two companies, Crye and Lafayette came together to create a product line that was needed in a big way.”
Greg Th0mpson, owner of Crye Precision and Deidre Quinn of clothing designer Lafayette 148, led the mayor around the massive factory, stacked with boxes of heavy-duty military-type clothing, tactical vests and other items they usually manufacture, but now have pivoted to making hospital gowns. Thompson showed the mayor a machine that was cutting out a pattern from a long roll of material, that would be washable and reusable. A disposal garment was also in the works to be shipped to hospitals.
Further in, there were rows of young women working on sewing machines, putting the gowns together for use, all wearing t-shirts that looked similar to an FDNY shirt, except it said, “Social Distancing, City of New York,” and the back read, “stay back six feet.”
Mayor de Blasio said the factory expects to produce 19,000 hospital gowns by the end of the month and a total of 320,000 to protect hospital staff. Some of the shipments will also supply nursing homes, private clinics, medical centers and treatment facilities. He said hospitals used 1.8 million surgical gowns, and are projected to need 2.5 million more.
Yesterday, the mayor was calling on the state and federal government to come up with more supplies, mostly to fill the gap in ventilators which are the last hope for many COVID-19 sufferers. He projected needing 15,000 ventilators to deal with the estimated number of people who will be the most seriously ill from the contagion. He said they have enough until Wednesday.
“We are working with the federal government to get the supplies we need and this is a real concern, including getting N95 masks from the federal government,” de Blasio explained. “The public hospitals have bore the brunt of this virus and so it is really inspiring that these companies joined together to step up and create something that we need in this battle against the virus.”
Thompson said 10 other companies stepped up to provide supply and logistics for the gowns, and he thanked Lafayette 148 for coming up with the patterns to make them.
“It’s been incredible to create products for our heroes, all brave men in our facilities during this time,” Thompson said.
Quinn also expressed pride in their ability to help with the effort.
“Greg took the ball and ran with it – we wanted to do anything we could to make a difference in this city. It’s not exactly fashion, but it is what we needed,” Quinn said.
The mayor said they received 291 additional medical staff at the Javits Center and he said more are on the way from the federal government.
“They are ready to go to the ICU’s and we are grateful to be getting them. The city needs all medical people to reenlist and we are doing everything to get as many of the millions of medical doctors here as soon as possible,” de Blasio said.
On a related issue, the mayor took aim at those who were spewing hate and attacking Asian Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. Police were looking for suspects who attacked an Asian woman on a city bus only because she was Chinese.