World-famous NYC tourist attraction an eerie link between JFK and Oswald
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – President John F. Kennedy and accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald have more in common than that fateful day in Dallas fifty-eight years ago.
The two also have a connection with a New York City attraction known around the world: The Staten Island Ferry.
While running for president, then-Sen. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, rode the Cornelius G. Kolff ferryboat over from Manhattan on Oct. 27, 1960.
During his stop in the borough, JFK spoke to a crowd of 15,000 in the St. George Ferry Terminal.
It would turn out to be Kennedy’s only visit to the Island as a candidate or as president.
But eight years before JFK’s visit, Oswald visited New York City and did the things that many tourists do. He visited the Museum of Natural History, the venerable Polk’s Hobby Shop on Fifth Avenue and other city landmarks.
And Oswald, then 12, also took a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.
That’s according to Oswald’s half-brother John Edward Pic, a former Islander who played host to Oswald and their mother, Marguerite, during a visit in August of 1952.
Kennedy at the time was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and was in the midst of the successful campaign for U.S. Senate that would be his launching pad to the White House.
Though Pic, a veteran of the Coast Guard and Air Force, had lived on the Island at two different times during his military career, he was living in Manhattan at the time Oswald visited.
Pic testified about his relationship with Oswald, including the 1952 visit, before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, the Warren Commission, on May 15, 1964, six months after Kennedy was slain in Dallas, allegedly by Oswald.
Speaking of the 1952 visit in response to a question from assistant counsel Albert E. Jenner, Pic said, “Lee and I visited some of the landmarks of New York, the Museum of Natural History, Polk’s Hobby Shop on Fifth Avenue. I took him on the Staten Island Ferry, and several other excursions we made.”
Though the 1952 visit started well, according to the Warren Commission, things soured when it became clear that Mrs. Oswald intended to stay for the long term.
Mrs. Oswald did not get along with Pic’s wife, and the visit ended after Oswald threatened Mrs. Pic with a pocketknife during a quarrel.
Pic also testified that during the same quarrel Oswald struck his mother. The incident shattered the relationship between Pic and Oswald.
While there is no evidence that Oswald ever visited the Island, his half-brother had significant ties to the borough.
From June 1951 to January 1952, while serving in the Coast Guard, Pic was assigned to the old U.S. Coast Guard base in St. George.
After postings elsewhere, he was again stationed in St. George around April or May of 1954, but was frequently at sea doing weather patrol on a Coast Guard cutter. His address at the time was 80 St. Mark’s Place, Pic testified.
While still on the Island, Pic joined the Air Force in February 1956. He was soon stationed on Long Island and later Japan, and appears not to have returned to the Island after that.
Pic’s Island connection and the stormy relationship with Oswald are also mentioned in the book “The Day Kennedy Was Shot,” Jim Bishop’s definitive account of the JFK assassination.
Oswald’s half-brother isn’t the Island’s only connection to the JFK assassination.
Following the murder, the city named a ferryboat and a ferryboat class after the martyred president.
The three boats of the Kennedy class, the John F. Kennedy, the American Legion and the Gov. Herbert H. Lehman, proved to be among the sturdiest ferryboats in city history.
West Brighton resident Hubert Clark was a member of the Navy Ceremonial Guard, and helped take the casket off Air Force One when Kennedy’s body was returned to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 22, 1963.
He also stood watch in the room at Bethesda Naval Medical Center during Kennedy’s autopsy, and later helped carry Kennedy’s casket to Arlington National Cemetery.
Malcolm Kilduff, a former Islander, was an assistant press secretary and broke the news of the president’s death to the White House press corps that day. Kilduff’s father, Malcolm Sr., designed Barrett Park.
And Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle, a former director of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto, Prince’s Bay, was an attending prelate at JFK’s requiem funeral mass in Washington, D.C.