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JFK: The Presidential Candidate from the Bronx, and Other NYC Sites Associated with the Kennedy Family

"Ladies and gentlemen: I said up the street that I was a former resident of the Bronx. Nobody believes that but it is true. I went to school in the Bronx. Now, Riverdale is part of the Bronx, and I lived there for 5 or 6 years. [Laughter and applause.] No other candidate for the Presidency can make that statement. [Laughter.] In fact, I do not know the last time that a candidate from the Bronx ran for the Presidency, but I am here to ask your help. I don't think we are going to run all right in Riverdale, but we will be here."
- Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Concourse Plaza Hotel, Bronx, NY
November 5, 1960 from the website, The American Presidency Project

In September of 1927, powerful Boston patriarch Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr. moved his growing family from Boston, Massachusetts to Riverdale, an affluent neighborhood in the Bronx. Two years later the family moved to Bronxville five miles to the north. The houses in each place (the first in map below at 5040 Independence Avenue, just across from Wave Hill*) sported some twenty rooms, sprawling comfortable mansions perfect for indoor and outdoor sports. John Kennedy, the future President, attended Riverdale Country School from 5th through 7th grade. When he wasn't spending the summer in Hyannisport, Massachusetts or Christmas or Easter in Palm Beach, Jack was in the Bronx. On Saturdays, his father took the kids into the city. Let's call JFK a New Yorker. Middle school makes the man.


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What follows now is a random assortment of places of interest for the Kennedy family in New York:

• In that very same 1927, Caffe Reggio opened on Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village. Thirty three years later, Presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy made a speech outside the coffee shop. The cafe is still hopping.

• Check out this Life Magazine picture of presidential candidate JFK walking through the corridor of the ultra-groovy Time-Life Building (1271 Avenue of the Americas) with Luce and company, August 5, 1960.

• One of President John F. Kennedy's most awesome speeches concerned the topic of the presidency and the press, namely about the role of secrecy. He delivered the speech at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on New York City, April 27, 1961.

• The President's future wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, was born in East Hampton, Long Island, but the Bouvier family kept an apartment at 765 Park Avenue near 72d Street. After JFK's death she moved to 1040 Fifth Avenue, close to her daughter Caroline's school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart at 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The apartment had great views of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In her latter New York years, Jackie worked as an editor at Doubleday, eschewing publicity, and she fought for the preservation of Grand Central Terminal. The Reservoir in Central Park is named the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

• New York International Airport (formerly known as Idlewild Airport) was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 24, 1963.

• After the assassination, JFK's brother, Robert, left his post as Attorney General in LBJ's Cabinet to run for Senator from New York. After establishing New York residency, RFK was elected in 1964.

• JFK's son, John, Jr., at the time of his early tragic death in 1999, was living at 20 North Moore Street in Tribeca. Read this article from the NYT about Tribeca's reaction to the news that John's plane had gone missing.

• After her father's death, Caroline lived with her mother at the aforementioned Fifth Avenue address. She attended Radcliffe and then worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a pretty typical pattern for privileged young women from the Upper East Side. While at the Met, she met her future husband, Edwin Schlossberg, an exhibits designer. She received a law degree from Columbia University. She now resides at 888 Park Avenue with her husband and children. As we know, Caroline has expressed interest in being appointed to Senator Hillary Clinton's vacated Senate seat. Some people feel she shouldn't be given the post, mostly because of these issues of legacy and entitlement. There is no question, however, about her long connection to New York. Her ties are much longer than Hillary's, after all. What would help her, I think, would be to move her family out of the Upper East Side and to the South Bronx. * (See UPDATE below)

* I recommend shifting into Street View and pretending to stroll the pretty Riverdale neighborhood.

This walk is the fourth in a series of Presidential-themed walks exploring the role of U. S. Presidents in New York City and in celebration of the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

UPDATE 1/22/2009. Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from consideration, citing personal reasons.

Image of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park by Walking Off the Big Apple.

UPDATE: See this New York Post story on how Caroline is wooing the Bronx.

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  1. St. Patrick's Cathedral was the site of RFK's funeral Mass.

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