Bad Exposure: NJ Town Nixes Proposal for Topless Beach

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    New Jersey has a nude beach in a remote corner of Sandy Hook, but no 'topless' beach anywhere else along its roughly 140 mile coastline.

    The Jersey shore city best known for Bruce Springsteen says it doesn't need any additional exposure: Asbury Park shot down a proposal Wednesday night to allow women to go topless on one of its beaches.

    After hearing a report from City Attorney Fred Raffetto that two city ordinances prohibit public nudity, including simply going topless, the City Council declined to consider the proposal any further.

    "There is no intention to change those ordinances," Mayor Ed Johnson said.

    The idea was the brainchild of Reggie Flimlin, a yoga studio owner who has sunbathed without a top in Europe and Miami. She wants to do it legally here.

    "It's a shame," she said when told by The Associated Press of the council's decision. "They had a real opportunity here to embrace women's rights in Asbury Park. It's discouraging."

    Supporters say the topless beach would revitalize tourism in Asbury Park and create a new buzz surrounding the resurgent beach town. But others worry it would scare away families who recently have started coming back to the once-famous resort.

    "My mother raised us to keep ourselves covered up," resident Stephanie Miller-Dekle said. "This is a family town. It would be a disgrace to be out there with children on the boardwalk and have them looking at body parts that don't belong to them. I'm proud of Asbury Park right now."

    Flimlin said some women already bare their breasts on the beach. She said codifying the practice would give a jolt to tourism in Asbury Park, which she called "an edgy community."

    The proposal would have enabled women to take off their tops on a beach in the city's north end.

    But several potential problems arose with that location, including a large number of families with children who use the beach in that area. And it is right in front of a 26-story apartment building for senior citizens.

    State law leaves decisions on what level of clothing is appropriate for the beach to individual communities. Currently, Gunnison Beach on Sandy Hook, part of the federal Gateway National Recreational Area, is the only beach in New Jersey where total nude bathing is permitted. Higbee Beach, a Cape May County beach that once permitted nude bathing, no longer does because of problems with sexual activity in the dunes and parking lot.

    No other New Jersey beach permits topless bathing.

    Asbury Park was once such a part of the national popular culture that it was referenced on "The Honeymooners" TV show, when Alice mocked Ralph Kramden for investing in "that uranium field in Asbury Park." And rock legend Bruce Springsteen cut his musical teeth here.

    But the advent of air travel put more exotic beaches within easier reach of most Americans. White flight and poverty following the 1960s left Asbury Park gasping for air.

    During the last decade, a renaissance has taken hold, led by an expanding gay community and a widening embrace of the city's diversity.