Pull up your pants or get off the boardwalk, Wildwood officials say

Roy Perez (left), of Wildwood, said he opposes any restriction on clothing. (DAVID M WARREN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
Roy Perez (left), of Wildwood, said he opposes any restriction on clothing. (DAVID M WARREN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
Posted: June 02, 2013

If butt cracks could fly, the Wildwood boardwalk could be an airport, Mayor Ernie Troiano says.

And Wildwood is not in the aviation industry.

That's why the outspoken leader of the Jersey Shore's most raucous resort is throwing another headline-grabber out there, an ordinance that would deter exposed derrieres and underwear on the boardwalk by banning sagging baggy pants and shorts.

"We're not trying to bring back the Victorian era," Troiano said recently, "but I don't want to see your ass hanging out."

Back when the globe was apparently much cooler and society less sinful, the boardwalk was like going to church with seagulls. There was nothing hanging out. On the beach, bathing suits resembled pajamas or canvas curtains and they barely revealed a knee let alone a hiney.

Beyond banning nudity, most shore resorts don't have specific ordinances about clothing. Wildwood has an ordinance prohibiting bathing suits on the streets and boardwalk if you're over 12 but it's not enforced. Cape May City has a similar ordinance for anyone over 14.

Almost every town along the coast is tough on people getting undressed in public or in their car, though there is an official nude beach at Sandy Hook in Monmouth County where one can drop trou without a worry.

Sea Isle City has an exception to their nudity rule for art's sake, if it involves a "bona fide theatrical show or dramatic presentation."

North Wildwood, a municipality that shares the boardwalk with Wildwood, had an ordinance banning shorts on the boards but recently took it off the books. Asbury Park has a ban on bathing suits on the boardwalk but it's a throwback to a bygone era and not enforced.

"We used to be very formal here. You used to have a jacket and tie here at one time," said Tom Gilmour, Asbury Park's Director of Economic Development. "Everyone wears a bathing suit now. Nobody would come here if we enforced it."

There's no invisible wall on the boardwalk blocking tourists from entering North Wildwood with droopy drawers, but Mayor Bill Henfey said there haven't been complaints about the issue there.

Troiano said he has had complaints along his stretch of the wood, though, and he'll leave it up to the police to gauge the proper level of one's pants, shorts or swimsuit. Three inches of visible boxers, brief or bare butt? That's too baggy.

"We're not going to be Gestapo about it," he said. "It will be a simple 'we'd appreciate it, if you pull your pants up.' "

A public hearing is scheduled for June 12 and Troiano is confident it will pass, along with rules prohibiting bare feet on the boardwalks at all times, and requiring shirts or tank tops be worn after 8 p.m.

Laws and ordinances about loose pants have been passed and sometimes later repealed all over the country in the last decade or so, often with controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union has said that "baggy pants" laws can unfairly target urban and African-American youth and set the stage for racial profiling.

Both the New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU declined to comment about Wildwood's proposed ordinance.

In Asbury Park, Gilmour said cracking down on specific clothing is just bad for business in 2013.

"I think it's dangerous, especially in today's economy," he said.

Troiano said all exposed butts are bad, particularly if you're a little kid or grandpa walking behind one.

"This has nothing to do with race, this has to do with decency," he said. "Nobody wants to look at a guy's butt crack hanging out and believe me, you see all sizes, colors, shapes and ethnicities"


Twitter: @JasonNark

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