Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

NYPD Crossing Guard Says She 'Can't Stop' Dancing, Even When It Nearly Cost Her Job

Esther Bishop has been a crossing guard for 13 years, and she's danced her way through every year on the job, despite those who have tried to stop her groove.
crossing 3
The ‘dancing crossing guard’ Esther Bishop. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader

Nothing will stop crossing guard Esther Bishop from dancing.

Not the rain, not the snow. Not an anonymous call to the precinct saying the mother-of-five tried to throw herself in front of a car. Not complaints that she uses headphones on the job. Not the fact she's been moved from post to post to post.

Nothing and nobody is going to stand between her and what she was made to do, she told BK Reader this week from her current post in Bed-Stuy, at Saratoga Ave and Bainbridge Street.

"With God's will I plan to stay here in this post, and I plan to stay a crossing guard until I retire, and I plan on not retiring until I'm about 80," she laughs through her grills, braids swinging.

"I wanna keep dancing, I love being a crossing guard, and only way I'm going to to do different is if God move me. But man will not move me, in Jesus’ name."

Blessing the people

Bishop has been at her current post for three months, where she can be seen every weekday outside P.S./I.S. 137 grooving, grinning, and guiding kids and neighbors across the road.

She has an easy nature, and makes the kids laugh. When the school bus drives past, it honks, and she pauses to call out, "How you doing, God bless you!"

But the last 13 years of being a crossing guard haven't always been so breezy for Bishop. Due to the fact she can't stop dancing, she's ruffled some feathers, and that's seen her moved from place to place.

"They try and intimidate me not to dance," she said.

In the past 13 years, she said she's had multiple Command Disciplines â€" or CDs â€" from bosses at the NYPD, and has been shifted all over Brooklyn, including recently being moved away from a crossing right near her house on Herkimer Street.

Bishop said, over the years, the techniques of trying to stop her dancing have mutated. At first she was simply told not to dance, then she was told not to hug and chat with people, and now she gets moved whenever someone complains about her using headphones.

But she says she truly can't stop and doesn't want to.

"It's this spark in me and I know that Jesus gave it to me. It's a gift," she said. "Psalms 149 and 150: it says dance, dance in public, dance in private, rejoice. When you dance you are breaking spiritual strongholds, the people are being blessed."

Dancing from birth

Bishop grew up in Bed-Stuy, and had the movement bug since she was a little girl, when her mom would take her to church and she would dance.

She remembers trying to force her family into dance battles after school, and her mother telling her off for trying to dance all day.

When Bishop had the house to herself she would saunter through the rooms, twinkling her fingers, trying to get all the dance out before everyone else got home. She's the only one in the family who loves to move.

"I just always had it inside of me to dance, I'm telling you. Have you ever just had something compelling you? I could not get it out of my system. I tried to really get it out."

Grooving on the job

She remembers when she first felt the need to dance on her initial crossing guard job in Midwood.

She tried to keep it minimal, but her supervisor noticed and told her to stop. When she didn't stop, he came up with a plan. "He looked at me and said, 'I know how to stop you dancing. So he put me out on Coney Island Avenue."

Bishop was shaken. She cried, and went home and prayed to God, begging to be taken off Coney Island Avenue and promising not to dance again, because she feared losing her job.

The 'dancing crossing guard' Esther Bishop. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader

After two days off work, praying, she went back to work on Coney Island Avenue, an area with a strong Orthodox Jewish community. After a few days back, a man walked past her and did a little boogie.

"He said, 'We know who you are, you need to dance,'" Bishop recalls. She couldn't help herself, she danced.

She says she remembers someone opening a window and calling out, "Give us them happy feet!" Others at the crossing started dancing too, including some from the Jewish community.

After that, the dancing crossing guard became a welcome fixture on Coney Island Avenue. She said an Orthodox news outlet came and interviewed her, and she made close friendships in the Jewish community, to the point she was invited for dinner and children would often bring her little treats and water on the job.

"You’re talking about the sweetest people," Bishop said. Not only that, members of the community told her what she suspected: that God had sent her to dance.

Shaking it off

Despite the challenges Bishop has faced through her compulsion to dance on the job, she says she understands.

"If people don't understand something, you shouldn't be offended by it. You cannot expect everyone to like everything you do."

She's laughed through people accusing her of being on drugs (she says she doesn't drink and has never ever smoked marijuana). She's "humbled herself" time after time when she's been moved stations.

'Dancing crossing guard' Esther Bishop. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader

What does offend her is an anonymous call to the precinct suggesting she doesn't cross the children. "The one thing I do is cross everybody."

Now, Bishop wants to take a stand. With communities going through pain with gun violence, hunger, robberies, she says no one should be worried about her dancing. Recently, she made a stand: no more moving.

She wants to stay put at Saratoga Ave and Bainbridge Street, where she can bless her community for years to come, she said.

"I wanna watch the kids grow," she said. "I wanna be that crossing guard who the child says, 'She was uplifting to me, I remember her.'

"This is for me, this is what I love to do, I wouldn't trade it for nothing."

Jessy Edwards

About the Author: Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is an award-winning news and feature reporter whose work can be seen in such publications as NBC New York, Rolling Stone, the BBC, CNBC and more.
Read more


A note about commenting:

If you had a commenting account prior to Feb. 14, 2023, you will need to register for a new account before commenting. Click here or start to leave a comment to start the registration process.