April 16, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A prominent Long Island City-based plastics company is manufacturing protective face shields for healthcare workers battling COVID-19.
Plaxall — a neighborhood mainstay for 70 years and a well-known property owner— is currently coordinating with city and state officials to distribute face shields for local hospitals.
Paula Kirby, the managing director and granddaughter of the company’s founder Louis Pfohl, said that her greater family immediately looked to help out as soon as they heard that health care workers were short on personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Right away we were thinking what can we do to play a part here and to pitch in?” Kirby said, adding that she and her cousins–who now run Plaxall–were inspired by the philanthropy of their grandparents.
“They had always helped people,” she said, referring to Louis and his wife Pauline Mathis Pfohl.
Kirby said the company typically manufactures custom plastic containers, so it was not a big stretch to modify its operations to produce face shields.
Plaxall began prototyping a few different types of the plastic visors and had produced 2,000 shields by the end of last week.
The company is currently coordinating with local officials to distribute them to nurses and doctors in the five boroughs.
“I think, we’ll just keep pumping them out as needed,” Kirby said of the production, which five employees are currently managing.
The company has also enlisted the help of two of its tenants, Eventscape and Vari-Direct, to help produce the non-plastic parts of the shields.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the medical face shields are among the items most in need. He said that several New York firms would begin to manufacture the shields with the aim of collectively producing more than 465,000 shields per week.
Plaxall is currently working with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the state’s Empire State Development to see what role it will play.
Besides the shields, Plaxall has been active in helping local businesses, the community and residents in need in the midst of the crisis.
It has manufactured and donated plastic food containers to local restaurants that are providing free meals for hospital workers.
In addition, the company has provided space in its gallery located at 5-25 46th Ave. to aid the grassroots LIC Relief effort, which was recently formed to help residents in need. The Plaxall Gallery has become the food distribution center.
Plaxall and its tenant VariDirect are also helping to deliver the meals to communities and non-profits in need, including to Queensbridge Houses and through Hour Children and Sunnyside Community Services. They are working in partnership with the LIC Relief group and the Queens Borough President’s office.
Kirby said helping to collect the food and deliver meals is another tangible way to help.
“It’s definitely a good feeling if you can help,” she said, while noting that it’s a humbling feeling knowing that there are so many people who don’t have enough for their next meal.
The company has also made a sizable cash donation to LIC Relief, according to sources, although the family elected not to comment on it.
Plaxall– via a foundation named after Louis Pfohl and his wife Pauline Mathis– is well known for being a generous financial supporter to many local groups and organizations for decades. Recipients include the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Jacob Riis Settlement, Urban Upbound and many more.
Kirby said she just wants to join forces with the residents of Long Island City to help out right now.
“Everybody really just wants to pitch in and help,” Kirby said. “It’s a wonderful thing to see.”