By Steve Mosco
Rockaway residents want to cover up cheeky sunbathers.
Some beachgoers and elected officials are flush with anger that the city has yet to rebuild a fence separating a family-friendly beach in Neponsit and the more adult-oriented nude beach at Bay 2 in Jacob Riis Park.
Hurricane Irene destroyed the fence, which was erected nearly100 years ago, last year – exposing beachgoers with nothing to hide to the general public.
In an effort to spur the city into action, elected officials and concerned residents rallied in Rockaway July 1, calling for the fence to be replaced.
“For decades, families have felt secure in bringing their children to Rockaway Beach without having to worry about the potential of exposing them to the adult behaviors of the adjacent beach at Riis Park,” state Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) said. “The fence has served as an effective barrier, allowing all types of beachgoers to enjoy our beautiful beaches.”
Goldfeder also said the city Parks Department and the National Park Service, which run the beaches, owe it to the families of Rockaway to replace the fence.
Neither Parks nor the National Park Service returned requests for comment.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) were also on hand at the rally to say children at the beach should be protected from adult behavior in a public place.
“Public beaches are for everyone, but displays of nudity and lewd behavior by some salty adult non-residents are not for everyone, especially not in front of our children,” said Addabbo. “Put a good fence back up like the one that has stood for almost 100 years. Then both sides win and become good neighbors.”
But bare-skinned beachgoers believe those who want the fence rebuilt are unfairly characterizing them as “degenerates.”
“There is nothing vulgar about this at all,” said Michael Giannopoulos, 42, who wore a barely-there speedo in lieu of total nudity. “We are not degenerates. No one is having sex in public.”
While he believes there is nothing wrong with nudity at the beach, Giannopoulos said he would not care if the fence was put back in place.
Topless sunbather Andrea Marcos, 25, agreed and said fence or no fence, she will be on the beach to soak in the rays.
“I don’t care if the fence is up or not,” said Marcos, adding that she has never seen lewd behavior at the beach. “I’m comfortable being topless on a beach, but if a parent doesn’t want their kids to see my breasts, I totally understand that, too. We aren’t looking to bother anyone. We just want some sun.”
According to officials, the fence was not only meant to protect innocence.
Elected leaders noted the barrier has served as a clear indicator for policing agencies to identify jurisdiction and enforcement. National Park police said the absence of a fence could cause confusion in jurisdiction and relaxed enforcement, leading to an increase in crime.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.