Neighborhood Celebrity: Murray Hill's Dancing Traffic Officer
MURRAY HILL — Carmen Pena isn't your average traffic director.
While shuttling cars through an intersection at 34th Street between First and Second avenues, her feet shuffle, her arms wave, and her hips swing as she dances to the sounds of the New York City streets.
Pena moved to New York from Lima, Peru, at age 11, and she’s lived in Queens ever since. She became a traffic agent eight years ago and has been stationed at her current intersection for almost two years, she says. She hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I have a lot of fans," she says.
DNAinfo New York pulled Pena aside to ask her a few questions as part of our Neighborhood Celebrities series:
What’s with the dancing?
I enjoy it! I am always dancing. Since I was little, my mom always taught us how to dance.
Are you doing a specific kind of dance?
Sometimes it’s salsa, sometimes it’s merengue, sometimes belly dancing.
What’s the reaction from drivers?
They love it. They always say “You make us happy!” Sometimes they come waving a flag, sometimes they say “we love you!” One guy said “Oh! I’m your fan.” I say thank you. They’re very nice. I get a lot of positive comments, let me tell you.
Do you ever get nervous standing in traffic?
No. Never. I always like the middle of the street. I can see everything: east, west, north, south. You have to be alert. You have to be firm. Sometimes they’re gonna do whatever they want but you have to be firm and have a fast reaction.
Are New Yorkers good drivers?
The only thing that gets me mad is I see a lot of people texting. It’s pretty bad. They still don’t understand that texting and driving don’t go together. Do not text! It gets me pretty mad. I try to ignore but sometimes I see it in front of my face. It’s too much. I’d say 80 percent probably are texting, which is very bad. I think it’s very dangerous.
What’s the best part of your job?
How confident I am doing it. But I enjoy every little part of directing traffic.
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