Best City Sunbathing Spots for the Shy and the Bold

By Andrea Swalec on July 29, 2013 7:24am 

Slideshow
 Whether you want to show off or stay secluded in the shade, the city has someplace for you.
New York City Sunbathing Spots
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NEW YORK — Whether you want to catch rays in full view or tan somewhere more private this summer, sunbathers of all stripes can find a place to strip down in New York City.

Parks and beaches across the boroughs host a range of sunbathing scenes, from the strut-your-stuff-in-a-Speedo set at Pier 45 in the West Village, to the lower-key tanners wearing shorts and T-shirts in Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City.

DNAinfo New York checked out some of the city's most popular sunbathing spots as well as a few of the better-kept secrets:

For a See-and-Be-Seen Gay Scene: Pier 45

No baggy swim-trunks allowed. Men of all ages sunning themselves in streamlined bathing suits are what distinguish Pier 45, also known as the Christopher Street Pier, from most other city sunbathing spots.

The 850-foot-long pier in Hudson River Park offers ample lawn space for tanning, plus outdoor showers to help parkgoers cool down.

"This is definitely the gay pier," said Chelsea resident Brian Newman, a 39-year-old computer technician. He said he loves the pier because same-sex couples are openly affectionate there.

"I might not feel comfortable doing that elsewhere," he said.

Gabriel Darretta, a 32-year-old Harlem resident and retail worker, said he tries to visit the pier every week.

"There's a serenity about it," he said.

Accessible at Christopher Street, Pier 45 has a shaded awning, restrooms and space for concerts, which are scheduled all summer long.

For Oceanside Russian Delights: Brighton Beach 

To get bronzed while getting a taste of Russia, sun seekers can take the B or Q trains to Brighton Beach. Just a stroll down the boardwalk from noisier Coney Island, Brighton Beach offers oceanside restaurants serving smoked fish and carafes of vodka, streets full of low-cost produce markets and people in skimpy swimsuits.

Trying to catch some sun on a cloudy afternoon, Russia native Elena Kuz, a 26-year-old artist, said the dress code at her local beach is decidedly minimal.

"The Europeans and Russians here wear Speedos on the beach, which is funny for Americans," she said. "For us it's just normal."

Bay Ridge resident Samantha Rozelle, a 24-year-old bartender, said she heads to relatively clean, quiet Brighton Beach about once a week and picks up fresh fruit like cherries along the way. She said the area — which is about 40 minutes from Midtown by subway — is distinct from the rest of the city.

"The scene here is definitely Russian," she said.

Hurricane Sandy damaged lifeguard stations and restrooms on the beach, along with the boardwalk, but repairs were made in time for Memorial Day.

For Low-Key City Splendor: Brooklyn Bridge Park

With views of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn's signature bridge, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers sprawling lawns plus shady refuges from the sun, with a total of 85 acres of recreation space along the East River.

Lower East Side resident Barbarah Tavares, a 31-year-old massage therapist, recently tanned on the lawn in a bikini on a hot afternoon. The Brazil native said she visits Brooklyn Bridge Park about once a week for a quiet getaway.

"In other places, people are more showing off," she said. "Here is more chill, and I like the chill."

Clinton Hill resident Jamal Rodney, a 21-year-old college student who visited the park with friends and brought lunch, said he catches some rays in the park to take a break from the city.

"This is where people come to just clear their minds," he said.

The park runs from Atlantic Avenue all the way north along the East River coastline to Jay Street. Sunbathers can use free wireless Internet at Pier 1, Pier 6, the Empire Fulton Ferry and Main Street.

Food in the park is sold by some of the city's most popular vendors, including the ice cream seller Ample Hills Creamery, the Mexican food vendor Calexico and the seafood purveyor Luke's Lobster.

For Family-Friendly Secluded Sunning: Battery Park City

People looking for no-fuss, no-frills sun worshipping can try the lawns of Battery Park City, which overlook New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey's waterfront skyscrapers and have plenty of shade for parents and kids.

A mix of people on their lunch breaks, young families and those with midday time to spare sunbathed there on a recent weekday afternoon.

Norway native Charlotte Wold, 24, tanned in the park as she studied for exams for a degree in business management. The Lower Manhattan resident said she liked having the lawn at Wagner Park mostly to herself.

"It's so relaxed and quiet here," she said, adding that she wished more food vendors were nearby.

Lawns, shaded walkways and bike paths in Battery Park City run from Pier A, near Battery Place, to just north of Chambers Street.

For a Your-Own-Front-Lawn Feel: Gantry Plaza State Park

A quick walk from the G and 7 train stops in Long Island City, sunbathers can gaze at Midtown from near the base of the iconic red Pepsi-Cola sign. Gantry Plaza State Park offers 12 acres of park space, with well-maintained lawns and homey wooden deck chairs overlooking the East River and the Manhattan skyline.

Long Island City resident Alex LaMantia, 26, said she felt comfortable baring a little skin in the park because it isn't as crowded as more popular sunbathing spots.

"I don't need to be flaunting myself in a bikini in Sheep Meadow. No thank you!" the nonprofit program coordinator said.

The park runs from 50th Avenue to near 46th Avenue.

Canarsie resident John Victor, 24, recently enjoyed the sunshine and snapped photos of his 16-month-old daughter, Noel, with the Pepsi sign in the background.

"The view here is just pure New York," he said.

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