Fire Island Lighthouse Nude Beach in Long Island NY Update

| August 13, 2014 | 24 Comments

Update on the Status of NY’s Former Nude Beach – Lighthouse Beach

It’s the 2nd summer that naturists have been banned from Lighthouse Beach on Fire Island, NY. Not long after superstorm Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the National Park Service decided to immediately end nude use of Lighthouse Beach.

The NY Post just did a story on the beach, and it’s good to see more coverage of the situation. We think the article is supportive enough, and the naturist community seemed to respond positively. (Even if it does sensationalize the nudity a bit in its accompanying photos.) The article goes over some of the reasons given for the ban, one of the most important being a rise in “lewd, lascivious and voyeuristic behavior, as well as an increase in suspected prostitution, drug use and assaults.”

Bob Morton, executive director of the Naturist Action Committee (NAC), says it’s all “hearsay.” There’s no evidence to prove these claims of the Fire Island National Park Service (NPS). As far as we could tell, Lighthouse beach goers were confused by the “reports” of illicit behavior. Most would describe Lighthouse as a beautiful, peaceful family-friendly beach. Basically, it looks like NPS made it up.

lighthouse beach nude beach fire island clothing required sign new york young naturists america

Nudity is now prohibited at Lighthouse Beach with a “Clothing Required” sign.

Lighthouse has been a popular nudist beach for decades. The Post reports that nudists could be found on the shore starting in the late 1800’s, though it really took off starting in the 1960’s. I have friends that were raised as nudists with their families on that beach. Thousands upon thousands of people visited every summer to enjoy the sun, sand and water in the clothing-optional section.

However, it’s important for people to know about the legal aspects of the beach. Nudity is officially prohibited by NY state law, but this beach is located on federal land. Thus NPS could choose not to enforce the state law, and this is what they did for a long time. But naturists essentially knew they could turn around and decide to start enforcing it at any time, and that’s exactly what happened in February 2013. Over the years, many naturists consistently strived to inform others about proper beach etiquette and behavior so as to keep the beach safe and open. The Long Island Travasuns and Save Lighthouse Beach are two groups that worked hard to establish a relationship with NPS and help police the beach.

Sooo what’s the real reason Lighthouse Beach in Long Island was closed to nude use?

In the spring issue of N magazine (official publication of The Naturist Society), Bob Morton provided an update on their meetings with NPS and a summary of their arguments against the ban. One of the first key people he talks about in the article is Lena Koschmann. Less than a year before NPS made their big announcement, Koschmann had become the new Chief Ranger. She was actually new to Fire Island, too, having just been transferred from North Carolina. Morton writes, “She had arrived at FIIS with an attitude that, by all accounts, was rigidly opposed to nudity on public land.”

Thus many in the naturist community blame Koschmann for this fiasco. Though Morton points out that she was not solely responsible because it had to come down from the superintendent. (Side note: Koschmann has since been promoted to a new position and no longer works at Fire Island NPS.)

What’s the latest Lighthouse Beach news? Are we ever going to get back our Long Island nude beach?

The Naturist Action Committee is working behind the scenes to try and reestablish the clothing-optional status of Lighthouse Beach. It may be slow-going, but it is not a lost cause.

In the N magazine article, Morton gives a full explanation of their main argument against NPS’ actions, in terms of the Administrative Procedural Act (APA). The APA is a federal law “requiring that agencies promulgate their rules after at least 30 days notice to the public and opportunity to comment by the public.”

In February 2013, NPS put out a letter announcing their policy change on nudity, which immediately went into effect. There was no 30 days’ notice or opportunity given to the public to comment, as required by the APA. This would’ve been acceptable if it were an emergency. But how can it be an emergency to end nude use of a beach in the middle of winter?

They go into much more detail in the article, but NAC appears to have a strong case against NPS for violating the APA and “very good legal precedent supporting its arguments,” as they state. If NPS is found to have violated the APA, there’s a good chance their nudity ban would be rendered invalid. You can read an outline of NAC’s arguments on their previous Lighthouse Beach action alert page (see righthand column in yellow).

In conclusion, based on what we’ve read and heard, we think there is still hope for reclaiming this beach!

What can I do about about the closing of Long Island’s Lighthouse Beach?

Donate to NAC! Your donation will help cover legal fees and other costs in this ongoing battle to save the beach.

Any other nude beaches in Long Island or around the Fire Island Lighthouse Beach area?

There are small alternative areas on Fire Island known as Cherry Grove and The Pines. These are well-known gay communities, and Cherry Grove actually falls outside of the FIIS jurisdiction. Nude sunbathing is still tradition in these areas, and that there have been no issues with park rangers or police over nudity. The catch is that these beaches are not easy to get to. You have to park and take the Sayville Ferry, which is a bit expensive. Usually there are just small groups of nudists with textile sections right next to them. (Due to parking and transportation constraints and the size of the beach, these sections are not a good alternative to Lighthouse.)

And then of course there is Gunnison Beach in NJ, a popular nude beach accessible by ferry from NYC.

Young Naturists and Nudists America

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Category: Social Nudity Blogs, Nude Beach, Naked News, Public Nudity, Nudism and Naturism, Social Activism

About the Author ()

Author of Felicity's Blog. Co-founder of Young Naturists America. 3rd-generation nudie. Avid reader. Feminist. 70% vegan, 30% vegetarian. When I'm not busy eating, I'm writing about naturism, censorship, topfree equality, body image and other fun topics. I like feedback, so plz leave a comment when you've got something to say!
  • jaxhard

    KathleenAtParadise There are increasing numbers of wrecks on the highways. Better close them down, too.

  • Al Mahany

    Frankiethecoolcat Al Mahany j238 No, but there should be.  I am not the person to start it because it would not be consistent with my political work towards restoring our beach.  But you can be sure of appropriate posting be me from time to time as the situation unfolds.

  • Frankiethecoolcat

    Al Mahany Frankiethecoolcat j238 
    Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful replies Al.   Is there a forum or web-group dedicated to the efforts to restore Clothing Optional use of Lighthouse Beach?

  • Al Mahany

    Frankiethecoolcat Al Mahany What you are suggesting is already in California law.  However, we have had no success in getting the California Parks Commissioner to designate San Onofre to be nude even though he can legally do so.

  • Al Mahany

    Frankiethecoolcat Al Mahany j238 Your idea that this would be better than Robert Moses Field 4 has merit.  But neither one of them is useable right now and will not be until that little change in State anti nudity law become reality.

    The problem getting that change is to get it past the lawmakers and get the votes on our side.  Their snap reaction would be that we are asking them to approve of public orgies.  Of course that is not the case, but now we need to get their attention long enough to teach them that it is in fact not.

    Then there is the matter of selling it on the State Park Commissioner, with the economics for the state being the selling point.  While that may sound easy, NAC and Friends of San Onofre have been trying to sell that exact package to the California Parks Department, where the necessary law is already there, with no success.

  • Frankiethecoolcat

    j238 Frankiethecoolcat 
    Under the current state law, I feel you are correct that the state will not allow nudity on state park land.  However, I have heard several people suggest that it could be possible to amend the state law to allow for designated areas.  
    If New York State can legalize gambling and move towards legalizing cannabis, I don’t see why a little harmless nudity on a small stretch of beach should remain illegal.

    All we need to do is figure out which politicians to bribe, and how to convince their patsies in the private sector that there is a significant sum of money to be made.  ;)

  • Frankiethecoolcat

    Al Mahany j238 Frankiethecoolcat
    The reason I pointed out Jones Beach West End 2 is largely for the same reasons, however it is even more underutilized than RMF4, and has an even larger parking lot, plus the restrooms, concession stand, gift shop, and all.  Its the same design and size as the facilities at RM fields 2, 4 and 5.  
    The other added benefit is that it is further away from the other textile beach fields, so there would be less likelihood of sightseeing gawkers wandering over from the textile beach.  The walk from the parking lot to the beachfront is also longer, therefore discouraging the casual drive-in gawkers, and also providing plenty of space to post signs informing visitors of nude sunbathers ahead, thus preventing anyone who didn’t know from facing a “shocking suprise” when they got to the beachfront. 

    Lastly, being that Jones Beach West End 2 is slightly closer to the city, I think there is even more opportunity for al of the economic benefits that you mentioned.

    My thought is that once I’m in the car, the extra 10 minutes to get down Ocean Parkway to Jones Beach doesn’t make that much of a difference.

    What do you think?  Is this worth looking into?

  • Frankiethecoolcat

    Al Mahany Frankiethecoolcat 
    Al, I agree with you completely.  We should expect that if 90% of the visitors are at one section then 90% of the resources should go there.  Unfortunately the administration doesn’t agree with us.
    As far as the state law goes, and you would know better about this than me, but how far fetched is it to consider lobbying to get the state law amended or modified, not repealed, but just slightly changed?
    I’m thinking the law can stand as it is with the minor additional wording that public nudity would be prohibited with the exception of designated areas and places where natural nudity would normally be expected.  Something like that?

  • Frankiethecoolcat

    j238 Frankiethecoolcat
    FINS Rangers may not frequently patrol the Pines and Cherry grove.  I haven’t been to the eastern communities much so I cannot bear witness to how things work there.  These communities along with Davis Park are located in the Brookhaven Town section of Fire Island, which has a whole different set of town codes and ordinances. 

    I do know however that the FINS Rangers, and SCPD, pass through the western community beaches because that is the only way for them to get to the federal sections of beach between the western communities.  
    Just this summer FINS instituted an alcohol ban on the federal stretches of beach between Atlantique Beach and Cornielle Estates.  The beachfront residents were complaining that FINS wasn’t doing enough to keep the crowds at bay on the federal sections between the communities.

    FINS announced Concurrent Jurisdiction along these stretches of beach in Islip Town to be consistent with Islip Town code.

    Generally when in community boundaries, the FINS Rangers rely on community standards to determine their enforcement.  The community standards of Cherry Grove and the Pines are significantly different than that of Ocean Beach and other western communities.

    Some of the communities have their own police, but some rely on Suffolk County PD.  There is mutual cooperation between the FINS Rangers and the SCPD, and down the west end both cooperate with NYS Park Police.

    Technically, SCPD and NYS Park police could have issued citations for nudity at Lighthouse beach in the past as it violates both state and town code.  The agencies however agreed to enforce based on community standards (set by FINS).  Now the FINS standards have hanged in certain areas, but not all.

    Keep in mind that the FINS nudity ban only affected areas that are easily accessible to the public.  Their own policy states that they would not enforce the anti nudity laws on more remote stretches of the federal land unless it started to become widespread.

  • Al Mahany

    j238 Frankiethecoolcat Right now, State Park officials do not currently have the power to declare areas of beaches under their jurisdiction to be clothing optional, whereas the FINS Superintendent only has to sign one piece of paper to make it happen.  That is the difference.

    That difference, however, is not insurmountable.  All it would take to give State Park officials that power is a small change in State law.

    Field 4 caught our attention because it is underutilized.  If were to go naturist, the parking and concessions there would be two large cash cows for the State, just like Haulover Beach is a cash cow for Dade County in Florida.  And unlike FINS, which could not care less about the area’s economy, the State would be responsive to the idea of increased usage of local businesses that a clothing optional Field 4 would bring in.  It is just that change in State law, which would no doubt find resistance by VIctorian stuffed shirt lawmakers in Albany, is the hard part.

  • Al Mahany

    Frankiethecoolcat you have a good point, but not one that I can’t answer.

    The entirety of the Fire Island National Seashore, with a few exceptions, runs completely on tax revenue from Washington.  So to conserve that revenue entirely by disenfranchising one user group and letting other groups, e.g. textile bathers, surfers, fishermen, bird watchers, etc continue unabated is an attitude that naturists are not real people but instead some sort of disease.  In actuality, we pay taxes along with members of the other aforementioned users groups and are therefore entitled to a fair allocation of FINS resources along with those other groups.

    And unlike most other user groups, we clean up after ourselves and even clean up areas that we don’t use.  We police ourselves, assist the Rangers in their work and even assist the other groups.

    We know policing is not free, but it is paid for out of taxes, and if 90% of the Fire Island visitors are concentrated in one spot, that means that 90% of the tax revenue that pays their salaries are generated from users of that one spot.  With that in mind, what is wrong with expecting 90% of their efforts to be used on that one spot?

    Oddly enough, the same FINS management that always complained about not having money for enough Rangers to patrol Lighthouse Beach or to pay for the BEYOND THIS POINT signs (we paid for them ourselves) seems to now have unlimited money to hire additional Rangers to play textile police and to pay for CLOTHING REQUIRED signs.  So to say that their statements to that effect lack credibility is an understatement.

  • j238

    Frankiethecoolcat There is no possibility NYS Parks Department will agree to a new clothing optional section outside of state law.  Anyone who pursues that will be wasting his time.  

    FINS Rangers generally do not patrol the towns on Fire Island, which have their own patrols. That’s the reason the nudity ban has not been imposed on Cherry Grove and the Pines.

  • Frankiethecoolcat

    I think many people are missing the true underlying issue here regarding Fire Island National Seashore.  Everything always comes down to money.  The National Park budget has been steadily decreasing over the past number of years.  Our parks and national treasures are falling into disgraceful disrepair.

    It has been noted by quite a few different sources that the number of rangers and paid park staff at FINS has decreased significantly in the past 5 to 7 years alone.  The park staff has been cut to the point where they can’t effectively patrol and manage the entire seashore effectively anymore.  Mutual aid has also been cut, as there are less New York State Park Police units and also fewer Suffolk County Police Marine units patrolling the beach.

    It is obvious that the nudity ban and several other actions taken by the superintendent were done in reaction to staff reductions.  Whether or not the people on the beach are law abiding and family friendly, or perhaps wild partiers engaging in illegal behavior,  you still need the manpower to patrol the areas that are being used.  From my observations, the nudity ban eliminated a minimum of 95% of the people that had been using Lighthouse beach.  Now the few rangers that are left can spend most of their time patrolling the areas near the communities where the wealthy people live and expect them to be.

    FIELD 4:  I like the idea somewhat, but Al Mahany is right about the uphill battle.  If our community still decides to go in that direction, I think a better alternative option might be Jones Beach West-End 2.  It is more isolated and frequented even less than Robert Moses Field 4.  Jones Beach West End 2 is also closer to New York City where a good majority of the beach users are coming from.

  • Al Mahany

    So the solution is to throw out the baby with the bath water? Sorry, but that is a non-solution.

    We had the solution, and it was working, although not fast enough for the baby with the bathwater crowd.  We formed a volunteer patrol (with the express approval of NPS, I might add).  The patrol changed the atmosphere on the beach from turn a blind eye and ignore to say something and report to the Rangers if you must.  Salacious behavior dropped to a tiny trickle of what it used to be.  Any uptick in the number of reported incidents was because more of them were getting prosecuted and no longer ignored, not because there were more of them.

    We proactively scanned the internet for solicitations for salacious behavior, successfully removing most of those ads.  We even went undercover for that purpose.

    Not surprisingly, few people noticed this, but the one or two times somebody managed to escape undetected and posted a phone video of their misadventure on the net, everyone noticed.  There is no way you are going to reduce criminal activity to zero, but one crime is all it takes to convince a populace pre-disposed to believe the beach is just one big orgy that that is all anyone does there.  Never mind the thousands of innocent people and their families who use the beach for peaceful naturism year after year.  They don’t matter.  Except that they do matter, just like innocent families in drug infested neighborhoods matter.  You don’t tell those families they can’t come out and play anymore, and you don’t tell innocent naturist families that either.

    As for LOLA, that was another management success story that nobody noticed either.  The first LOLA party took us by surprise, so yes there were some violations (most of which got the offenders ticketed or arrested, but nobody noticed that either).  Since then, Devon and Lola worked with us and the Rangers to manage their parties and keep them trouble free.  Although offenses did not drop to zero, it came pretty darned close.  Arrests for lewd behavior and drugs at those parties indeed dropped to zero, with the only offenses being minor matters like walking on the dunes (again resulting in tickets for the offenders).

    I don’t hear of Central Park or Coney Island or Jones Beach being closed because of violations.  The offenders there get ticketed or arrested as appropriate.  And that is what the Rangers were doing at Lighthouse Beach as well.  But then the administrators got involved and did what would be the unthinkable at any of the aforementioned clothed parks:  Group punishment.  Is that because of innocent naturism?  Does naturism make the users of Lighthouse Beach some sort of disease from outer space such that we should be exterminated because of a few violations?  What could possibly justify such hideous treatment of law abiding, taxpaying, hard working families when families who choose clothed parks get what Lighthouse Beach users should be getting and were getting all along until the administrators stuck their noses in:  Proper police patrols who removed those who insist on breaking the law.

  • KathleenAtParadise

    Much of what you have written is true….however… The Post Story leaves much to be desired (I was there saturday and there certainly were not hundreds of full frontal naked people, most everyone was obeying the rules)
    One would have to be completely blindsided to not see the increase in salacious behavior over the past few years…with the advertisements of such sexual party groups on Facebook ( Miss Lola, etc) and also pornographic movies filmed with the lighthouse as a backdrop (which of course made it look like the rangers were not doing their job) and posted on the internet, etc etc…. combine this along with a new ranger, Superstorm Sandy and the obiliteration of the dunes and you have the perfect trifecta of reasons which led to the end of Lighthouse Beach as clothing optional. 
    As a result, the attendance is way down, the party groups and their advertisements have gone to Gunnison, and on paper there are very very few incidences which would (unfairly) lead to the conclusion that once the nudity was banned, the problems stopped.
    Rome didn’t burn in a day, and sometimes to clock turns too far, but the sad behavior of a few hurt many many people who loved that beach for years….

  • j238 Only once? You’re such a big fan of ours, I’d have thought you would’ve been there every time we were there. Well, no matter. Next time you see us we can talk in person about all the work we haven’t done for Lighthouse Beach.

  • nude greg

    IF YOU SAY TO A SMOKER THEY SHOULD PASS AN ANTI TOBACCO
    LAW YOU HEAR THEM YELL ON THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS I HAVE THE RIGHT
    TO SMOKE GUESS WHAT THE NUDIST HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS
    AND WE SHOULD NOT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST LIKE WE ARE.

  • j238

    YNA, this was the clothing optional beach closest to your home base.  Believe I saw Jordan & Felicity there once.  You waited a long time to address this matter.

  • j238

    maz300 not gonna happen in Robert Moses State Park, as much as we’d like it too.

  • maz300 Al Mahany They did have hats lol

  • maz300

    Al Mahany Al….didn’t know that about field 4……beach ambassadors…..I never saw one there…..and if they had hats identifying themselves as such…..wouldn’t that make it better?…..

  • Al Mahany

    First of all we do have beach ambassadors, and the program was presented to the Superintendent and specifically approved by him.  Did you see the etiquette sandwich board sign that we displayed in 2011 and 2012?  That was not only approved by the Superintendent, it was specifically asked for by him.  And we fulfilled his request.

    Field 4 is under state, not Federal jurisdiction, so a whole different set of things have to happen to make that nude.  The Superintend has the power to make Lighthouse Beach nude again.  But the State Park Commissioner does not have the power to make Field 4 nude.  He would need the approval of the State Legislature and Governor Cuomo.  Cuomo is in the middle of a tough re-election fight, even being challenged by those in his own party,  So he is not going to do anything controversial, at least not until next year.  And that assumes he even wants to do it in the first place, and that assumes a majority of New York State lawmakers want to do it in the first place.  That is a tough road to hoe.  Lighthouse Beach only requires that we sway one person.  Field 4 requires hundreds.

  • maz300

    two questions……why not have official beach ambassadors to make sure there is no illicit behavior…….second, field 4 is mostly always closed…..why not designate that area for clothing optional use as haulover is in florida…?

  • Al Mahany

    Thanks Felicity.  Great article.  Just so you folks know, NAC’s expenses to fight for our beach have already topped $60,000, TEN TIMES the donations to date that we made to them.  This is not a cheap effort, and it should be our bill and not theirs.  So please donate what you can, even if it only $10 or $20.  You can mail them a check our use a credit card online.  If you attend any Travasuns event we can accept checks or cash for you.  All of it will go to NAC; nothing for us.  Look on their web page at http://www.naturistaction/donate.

    Thank you for all you do.