The New York City Economic Development Corporation is partnering with 40 garment manufactures in the city, including 16 Brooklyn-based businesses to produce Personal Protective Gear (PPE), including 300,000 isolation gowns and face shields for city hospitals.

“Over the past several weeks we have received over 2,700 responses from small and large businesses to help manufacture PPE items,” said Sonia Park, assistant vice president of Industry and Innovation at the EDC.

That includes Course of Trade, a non profit based in Brooklyn that trains people in industrial sewing, free-of-cost and in an effort to revive New York City’s dying garment manufacturing industry. But for the moment, in the time of coronavirus, the organization has shifted its focus to bringing in new workers to meet a new and growing manufacturing need for protective equipment.

According to Park, “This is an opportunity to bring in a lot of new manufacturing workforce who may not have been able to do so previously.”

Course of Trade is sub-contracting to about six factories in South Brooklyn, including two in Industry City and a couple in Brooklyn Army Terminal. In total, they are producing approximately 65,000 isolation gowns per week.

Mayor DeBlasio on his visit to Course of Trade.
Photo: Courtesy of Malia Mills

The workers are using gloves and face masks to safely produce the PPE. “We completely tore up our entire studio and have separated all of the machines so that they are at least six feet apart,” said Libby Mattern, founder of Course of Trade.

They co-located manufactures so that “people aren’t moving from one borough to the next trying to produce these goods,” Park added.

“The items are vetted by the NYC Department of Health and Hygiene to meet the city standards and are then distributed to their warehouses in Long Island City.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio is working closely with the White House, the EDC and Owens & Minor, the healthcare logistics company, to provide American-made medical gown fabrics to these companies.

Previously, the majority of hospital gowns were imported from overseas and, according to Mattern, “This is actually prime time for city of New York to start building our own supply chain.”

“If you don’t have a direct line of access to PPE, it is incredibly difficult when you are competing with everyone in the world to get it,” she added.

Course of Trade is “looking for more sewers and people familiar with industrial sewing machines,” said Mattern, adding that they currently have only twelve people working in a space of 10,000 square feet.

“In a time where things feel uncertain for everyone, and you don’t have anything going on, it’s a comfort to feel like you’re doing something that is benefitting people,”  Mattern said.

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This coverage of coronavirus is a special to BK Reader. We are asking for your help in keeping our coverage and database current with any helpful references and news tips. Please send all tips to covid19@bkreader.com. With your help, Brooklyn will emerge stronger and more unified as a borough. Thank you.

Gia Ramesh

Striving to tell stories that matter. Previously @GothamGazette @Bold

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