Proposed topless NJ beach sparks controversy

The News Leader

June 23, 2010 3:46:50 AM PDT
There's a new proposal to allow topless sunbathing on a remote beach in Asbury Park, and it has sparked great controversy in New Jersey.

Charles Costanzo, who goes to the Asbury beach regularly, is opposed to this proposal.

"I think a topless beach should be in the Caribbean only, this is a family beach," Costanzo said.

Michelle Linas, who also goes to the beach, agrees with Costanzo, explaining that this idea could be detrimental to the livelihood of the beach.

"Asbury is starting to come back," she said. "If they do that, it's going to tear it apart. And if they do it, we won't be coming here."

But some community members don't mind. Darlene Leak thinks it's fine, as long as children don't have to be subjected to it.

"If it's in one section, people have their own choices, it's better like that," she said.

The topless beach idea was introduced by Reggie Flimlin, the owner of Yogabasin, a studio and cafe in the center of Asbury Park. While the Asbury beach community considers whether to welcome topless sunbathers, Flimlin is pushing to have it approved, with a feminist outlook in mind.

"Asbury is ready to embrace topless sunbathing up on 8th Avenue," Flimlin said.

According to Flimlin, some women are already going topless at this beach on the north end of the city. Now she wants to make it official, to send the message that women have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide.

"Women should have the same rights as men and lots of men are sunbathing topless and no one is offended by that," said Flimlin.

There's already a nude beach in Sandy Hook. But if Asbury Park takes the plunge and decides to become the first municipal topless beach in New Jersey, city officials are hoping it will boost the city's profile with an edgier reputation.

Deputy Mayor John Loffredo thinks it's not such a bad idea.

"Asbury Park is a pretty cool place to be," he said. "I don't think it needs to be cooler, but it might add to the ambiance."

If the topless beach plan passes at the council's meeting next month, supporters say the unguarded surfing beach will have a more European feel, unlike other more conservative parts of the Jersey Shore.