'Sweet Spot' With Mike Sugerman: Jackson Heights' Unlikely Icon

June 21, 2018 - 3:34 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- As traffic deterrents go, Wink the Penguin could be the cutest.

“Wink was the thing that would ground me,” Jodi Sh. Doff told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman. “I would see him every day as I was going to the train station and then as I was coming home.”

Wink the Penguin lives in Jackson Heights at the corner of 75th Street and 37th Road. He’s meant to stop drivers from making U-turns over the median of plants and was installed by the Parks Department in 2001.

Cute as he is, Sh. Doff couldn’t believe he could get cuter until she noticed that somebody was dressing him up.

On Halloween, during the World Cup, or even for no reason at all, somebody would dress Wink in elaborate costumes. Most recently, he was dressed in a rainbow dress and headband for the Jackson Heights Pride Parade.

It had always been a mystery as to who was dressing the penguin, but recently, one woman has claimed responsibility.

Elsie Carballo, a real estate agent with an office just across the street from Wink, is now known as Wink’s dresser, even being honored by the city.

Answering through an interpreter, she said she goes out of her way to dress Wink in order “to spread joy.”

“People see it, and they get happy,” her interpreter continued.

“This is the landmark of the street, it represents everyone who lives in Jackson Heights,” said Wink fan Gerlim de la Cruz.

Though, while Cruz merely enjoys Wink, Sh. Doff made him a Facebook page that now has over 700 followers.

“I’m a research nut. I had all this information and didn’t know what to do with it,” Sh. Doff explained. “So I made him a Facebook page so that other people could enjoy him.”