On Columbus Day, Time's Up! and other activists participated in the third annual "Fountain Ride." Inspired by the Occupation of Wall Street, this year’s ride was renamed the Occupy Fountains Ride, and, like previous years, was intended to remind New Yorkers that many NYC fountains are in privately owned public spaces [POPS]—on property that developers agreed to set aside for public use as part of real estate deals with the city. The so-called "bonus plazas" are supposed to be accessible to the public, and Times's Up! argues that the private owners of these public parks have no right to regulate how they are used.
“They are supposed to be accessible to the public," says Times Up! member Benjamin Shepard. "It comes down to a question of accessibility. As William Whyte noted, it is crucial to define what 'accessible' means. A commonsense interpretation would say that the public can use these spaces in the same way it uses any public spaces, with the same freedoms and the same constraints. But they hire private security guards to shoo away skaters, nappers, and in this case, swimmers. They only get away with this because nobody has challenged them. A stiff, clarifying test is in order."
On Monday, that stiff test took the form of a bike ride demonstration to some of the city's fountains located in POPS. Time's Up! volunteer Barbara Ross has been at Zuccotti Park since the demonstrations began, and she tells us she hopes to "encourage more of these POPS to be occupied, since Liberty Plaza is overflowing and can no longer hold the number of occupiers and supporters coming through."
About two dozen cyclists participated in the ride, and no one was arrested. Ross tells us the police did show up at one plaza and ask the security guard if they wanted to press charges. He chose not to, and there was no other intervention with the police. But we get the feeling that after all this splashing around in public fountains, some of these demonstrators are probably going to wind up occupying a dermatologist's office.