One of the first monuments to the slain President John F. Kennedy appeared in 1965 at the north end of Grand Army Plaza. It replaced a large statue of Abraham Lincoln, the first slain President, which was then relocated deep in the park in the Music Grove, near the former Wollman Rink.
The bust, sculpted by Neil Estern, was originally poorly fitted on its pedestal and was then subject to vandalism. Between 2003 and 2010, the bust was located in the park’s Picnic House, out of view of the general public. It was restored and replaced in August 2010.
Estern started out as a doll designer, creating Patty Playpal for Ideal Toys. In 1965, Estern, moved by the assassination of the president, made a clay model of JFK’s head and shoulders. At the same time Brooklyn’s Democrats were planning a JFK memorial for Grand Army Plaza and proposed one with an eternal flame, similar to the one in Arlington, VA at JFK’s gravesite, but widow Jackie Kennedy nixed the plan. Estern’s completed bronze wound up on a temporary stele that deteriorated over time from weather conditions. During the 1970s, Estern completed a full body sculpture Fiorello LaGuardia that can be seen on LaGuardia Place just south of Washington Square; it was finally installed there in the 1990s.
By 2003, the Kennedy mount was in such bad shape from weather conditions as well as vandalism that the city finally decided to cast a new plinth at the cost of $70,000, which is in place today.
The Estern JFK bust looks south across Grand Army Plaza, seemingly facing off with the memorial to gynecologist Alexander Skene.