Small Business Survival: Brooklyn Navy Yard Business Ramps Up War-Like Effort to Make Face Shields for Hospital Workers
By Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Businesses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard are invigorated with the same spirit and patriotism that defined the East River industrial complex during World War II when factories produced ships used to fight Nazi Germany.
Michael Bednark reinvented his design and fabrication company named Bednark Studio to make face shields as protective gear for medical professionals in New York who are treating COVID-19 patients. He told Joe Connolly on this week’s WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast focusing on small business survival, sponsored by BNB Bank, that he is surrounded by small businesses who are stepping up in the battle against the deadly virus.
“I’m looking right across the street right now to a very large manufacturer called Cyre Precision. They are manufacturing hospital gowns and other safety equipment for our frontline workers,” Bednark said, adding, “The building to my right, they’re working on a ventilator prototype.”
At the impetus of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, which is now the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, he was forced to layoff workers. When he started hearing reports about the lack of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE for hospital workers, he worked with his design team through a weekend in mid-March to develop a face shield prototype to protect nurses and doctors against the contagious novel virus.
Bednark was in touch with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene through the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He sent pictures to the Department late Saturday evening and scheduled a meeting at its Long Island City headquarters for first thing the next morning.
“We drove over there Sunday morning, we met with them at 9:45, and at 10 AM, they said ‘let’s go with it.’”
Bednark hired 160 workers and moved into a 5,000 square foot event space in the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to maximize social distancing as advised by health experts to slow the spread of coronavirus. Bednark Studio takes employees’ temperatures when they report to work and it sanitizes the workspace every night.
He orders lunch to be delivered for his workers from local restaurants hit hard by the shutdown of non-essential businesses.
“Like most New Yorkers, we have a real sense of urgency,” Bednark said.
It’s a war-like effort to fight #coronavirus. Michael Bednark tells @JoeConnollybiz how he shifted gears and ramped up production of face shields at the @BklynNavyYard for frontline hospital workers. @wcbs880 #SmallBusinessSpotlight #DifferenceMakers https://t.co/F8Hd9HBsZj pic.twitter.com/8mj0QZ8SYP
— Neil A. Carousso (@NeilACarousso) April 8, 2020
He told Connolly his team is averaging 200,000 face shields a day. By comparison, hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer said its Liverpool, New York factory makes 4,000 face shields a day.
“We welcome anyone to come and start making anything they can, look at what they have around them, what they’re abilities are and figure out a product that they can make,” Bednark said.
Listen to the WCBS Small Business Podcast above to hear how small businesses are producing vital PPE equipment for hospital workers on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus.