MIDTOWN — Activists made a splash Monday afternoon, "occupying" fountains across Midtown in a mass celebration meant to put the public back in public space.
About two dozen members of the group Time’s Up! descended on fountains throughout the neighborhood, turning usually empty bodies of water into giant, public swimming pools.
“The message is really always about reclaiming public space,” said Monica Hunken, 30, who lives in Brooklyn and said the annual event was the perfect way to celebrate Columbus Day.
"Instead of celebrating the genocide of Native Americans we can celebrate discovering the new America with these public spaces," she said.
The adventure began in Herald Square, where swimmers stripped down to colorful bathing suits. They then took off on bicycles for the Avenue of the Americas Fountain, across the street from Rockefeller Center.
There, stunned tourists and office workers watched as the men and women jumped off their bikes and filed straight into the giant fountain, where they splashed and danced to classic rock under the summer-like sunshine.
“It was rejuvenating. I feel like we have revitalized public space in New York City,” said East Village resident Laurie, 21, who declined to give her last name.
While this is the third year for the event, organizers decided to change its name from “Fountain Ride” in honor of the Occupy Wall Street protest which, they noted, is also taking place in a privately owned public space.
“Obviously the most famous public space right now is Zuccotti Park,” said Time’s Up! member Ben Shepard, 41, from Brooklyn, who said that, like the park, the fountains were built by developers in exchange for zoning benefits, like extra height or bulk for surrounding buildings.
"These fountains have been public places since the zoning laws were passed by the City in 1961 and 1975,” he said during one of the group's next stops at the Pulitzer Fountain near the Plaza Hotel.
"We're here today to test that law and so far no one has been arrested," he said.
Brennan Cavanaugh, 45, who lives on the Lower East Side and has participated in the event for the past three years, agreed the efforts took on extra meaning this year in light of the protests Downtown,
“They’re occupying a bonus park, this is a bonus pool,” he said.
Passersby were equally amused by the antics.
“I liked it. They were just having fun,” said Gary Burgess, 51, who lives in the Bronx and was relaxing by the plaza after work .
His co-worker, Adrienne Crespo, 40, agreed.
“It was hysterical," she said. “It actually made my day."
With reporting from Paul Lomax.