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Bessent: Nude sunbathing ends on Fire Island, but there's still room for toplessness

At a beach on Fire Island with nude,

At a beach on Fire Island with nude, unidentified sun bathers. (April 16, 2002) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Mother nature and human nature have ended nude sunbathing on Fire Island.

That’s too bad, although it probably had to happen.

Certain beaches on the island have been hospitable to nudity for decades, even though baring all in public is against the law in New York. That wink-and-a-nod will end this summer, according to authorities of the Fire Island National Seashore, which shares jurisdiction with the state. Bottoms will have to be covered.

Mother nature, in the form of Superstorm Sandy, applied the coup de grace. It eroded dunes on the popular Lighthouse Beach that had previously kept the nude bodies out of the line of sight of tourists visiting the famed Fire Island Lighthouse nearby.

Human nature had already done its part. As that well known beach became more popular over the years a party atmosphere developed, and with it increased incidents of public sex, masturbation, prostitution and assault, officials said. That has stretched to the breaking point the ability of the areas’s six field rangers to police Fire Island’s 32 miles of beach, which includes areas near Sailor’s Haven from Point O’Woods to Cherry Grove also known for nude sunbathing.

Some nudist recreation groups want to find a compromise acceptable to all concerned. But that’s not going to happen, the Island’s chief ranger Lena Koschmann told Newsday.

Too bad. There should be somewhere on beach-rich Long Island for nudists to do their thing — though it is hard to see how authorities could in good conscience negotiate a deal that would allow people to break the law. So starting this beach season people who strip down will face up to six months in jail and $5000 in fines.

At least topless women will get a pass. Koschmann said the law on the books says a woman’s breasts must be covered. But according to case law, including a New York Court of Appeals decision in 1992, it is an unconstitutional, unequal application of the law to force women to cover up while allowing men to cavort sans tops.