NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tanlines are here to stay on Fire Island, where New York State law prohibiting naked sunbathing will be enforced on longtime nude beaches that were stripped of their protective dunes by Superstorm Sandy.
Banning nudity on the Fire Island National Seashore had been kicked around for years, but after Sandy and Hurricane Irene flattened the dunes, exposing beach views to the rest of the island, the National Park Service decided to act, chief park ranger Lena Koschmann, said on Wednesday. The ban is effective immediately, she said.
The park service is concerned with nudity and the party atmosphere it seems to inspire, Koschmann said. Prostitution, voyeurism, exhibitionism, public sex and masturbation have all become problems at the beach surrounding the Fire Island Lighthouse.
“This is a national park area and this is not an image we want to promote, that kind of lewd and lascivious behavior,” Koschmann said.
Because Fire Island is under concurrent federal and state jurisdiction and no federal law exists prohibiting public nudity, the park has until now allowed nudists.
To minimize shock for lighthouse visitors, the Park Service has warned them they would likely see nudists on the surrounding beaches. The warning, however, wasn’t delivered to a group of nuns who, after touring the lighthouse in December 2010, decided to take a walk on the beach.
“They were appalled when they inadvertently walked up to the boundary and were faced with nudity,” a park ranger’s incident report reads.
With complaints piling up and the shielding dunes swept away, the Park Service decided to immediately begin enforcing New York State penal code 245.01, which prohibits exposure in public, including prohibiting women from exposing their breasts except for the explicit purpose of breast feeding.
Violation of the code is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a maximum of six months in prison.
Nude sunbathing on other parts of the island not controlled by the Park Service was expected continue.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler