Once a WWII ship-building site, Brooklyn Navy Yard returns to its ‘wartime factory’ days

April 7, 2020

Photo by Michael Appleton/ Mayoral Photography Office on Flickr

During World War II, 70,000 workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard built and repaired thousands of battleships and sent supplies to troops stationed around the world. Today, the 300-acre waterfront site is returning to its roots, with manufacturing companies coming together to create medical supplies from scratch for healthcare workers in support of the city’s coronavirus pandemic response.

Photo by Michael Appleton/ Mayoral Photography Office on Flickr

Design company Crye Precision partnered with women’s clothing brand Lafayette 148 to create about 19,000 surgical gowns weekly; 320,000 gowns are expected by the end of the month. According to the mayor, the city’s hospitals used about 1.8 million gowns in one week combined, with a projection of 2.5 million used this week as the crisis grows.

“Every day we get to create and manufacture products for our heroes in the law enforcement and military communities, people who have made a far bigger sacrifice than we could ever imagine. This is no different,” Gregg Thompson, the executive director of Crye Precision, which designs combat apparel, said on Monday.

“So with that, I’d like to thank all of the brave men and women who are winning the fight and our hospitals and medical facilities. It is an absolute honor for all of us to work for you. It is an absolute honor to continue to get to work with my amazing team here at Crye Precision and it is an absolute honor to work with everybody here in the Navy Yard.”

Navy Yard tenants Bednark Studios and Duggal Digital Solutions, with the help of local companies Adafruit and Makerspace NYC, have together produced and distributed 127,000 face shields to the Department of Health. The firms are expected to build more than 1.5 million shields over the next three months.

According to the New York Times, Kings County Distillery has converted its factory at the Navy Yard into a hand sanitizer production center. Hand sanitizer, available for a donation of up to $20, can be picked up or delivered statewide.

Last month, the city’s Economic Development Corporation requested local businesses to quickly manufacture necessary supplies as part of the city’s relief efforts. The city said it received more than 2,000 responses from companies. During a visit to a surgical gown production line at the Navy Yard on Monday, de Blasio called the site “heroic by its nature.”

“We’re seeing once again, the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a symbol to this city and this whole nation of extraordinary and selfless service leading the fight against the coronavirus,” de Blasio said. “So history has come around in a very, very powerful way.”

In a similar “wartime” push, the mayor called for a national draft of medical personnel last week. Both de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have requested a rolling deployment of both personnel and equipment to New York first, which then would return the favor to the next community in need of support.

“The only way we’re going to get through this truly, if we’re going to save every life we can save, it means taking health professionals of every kind with every skill, every training, no matter where they are in their career, and enlisting them in a national service, creating something we just don’t have right now, but we could have, and we need to have,” de Blasio said on Thursday.


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