Watching her direct traffic to safely cross pedestrians at Port Washington Boulevard and Main Street, where 15 lanes of traffic converge, is akin to watching the conductor at the New York Philharmonic. Port Washington Police Department crossing guard Karla Bandrowski skillfully takes cues from multiple traffic lights to escort pedestrians across the busy intersection, all the while maintaining vehicular harmony.
Not only does Bandrowski have to navigate cars, trucks and bicycles coming at her from four directions, she has to endure extreme weather throughout the year. Take, for example, the unrelenting frigid temps and mounds of snow we all suffered through during the winter. How does the El Salvador native stay warm as she maintains her post for hours at a time? “In the wintertime, we wear lots of layers and drink lots of hot drinks,” she said. “Oh, and lots of moisturizer,” she added.
“I don’t like winter. I deal better with the summer, I guess because I come from a tropical country,” she said. And while she’s looking forward to a reprieve from the cold weather, the summer months bring their own set of hazards. Asked how she deals with the dog days of summer, during which heat radiates up from the pavement, she replied, “In the summertime, we get to wear light colors and shorts. [I drink] lots of cold drinks [and use] lots of suntan lotion.”
Bandrowski is in her ninth year as a PWPD crossing guard, and this is her seventh year at her current post. She left her job in retail to pursue a more family-friendly career.
“My kids were little, so it was perfect timing for me because I was always home for them,” she said. “But also it was a great opportunity since I love working with people…seeing the kids I cross grow up is so enjoyable, [and] the commuters in the morning are so friendly.”
Born in El Salvador, Bandrowski moved here with her parents and was raised in Great Neck. She currently lives with her husband and three children in Port Washington. “I like the fact that we are by the water and the town has things going on most of the time.” She appreciates the variety of community events and diverse restaurants. “You don’t get bored,” she said.
Despite the fact that she is outdoors during her working hours, she relishes the fresh air while she is not at work, as well. She spends her time with her family and their dogs and enjoys “running, walking and riding my bike around town, especially around the water. It’s very relaxing.”
Bandrowski has carved a career out of keeping others in her community safe, but she is thankful for the people she has met who have helped her along the way. “I have met lots of great people working as a crossing guard for the PWPD—people from the PWFD, post office workers, local stores, our coworkers. They all look out for us, and that makes my job more enjoyable,” she said.
“I like also that people feel safer when we are out there crossing their kids and themselves,” she added. “It makes me feel good that I get to protect the people of the community of Port Washington.”