The East River in New York City has been called “the most heavily trafficked, overly contaminated waterway on the eastern seaboard.” It is used as a receptacle for 27 billion gallons of raw sewage every year and as a dumping ground for dead bodies. In point of fact, as happens every now and then, the NYPD recovered the body of an unidentified man just this July But that hasn’t stopped a Brooklyn design team from planning to build a giant floating swimming pool within its polluted confines.
It’s a project that is now more than 12 years in the making. Now, the founders of the floating pool project are excited to announce that two big hurdles were recently cleared: the city gave their official blessing with a “confirmation to proceed with due diligence,” and the pool, if it ever exists, has been given a designated location, to float off of Pier 35 just north of the Manhattan Bridge.
The project was conceived in 2010, when four young designers launched a campaign to make New York City’s East River swimmable.
Although New York and New Jersey have spent billions of dollars to treat and clean the area’s waterways and remove debris, the East River remains unclean in the public’s perception, most of whom wouldn’t dream of swimming in it.
So the project’s founders, Dong Ping-Wong, Archie Coates IV, Jeff Franklin, and Oana Stanescu, all designers and architects, launched a campaign to change that. Their plan was to build a floating pool right in the East River so that the public could enjoy the river without being exposed to its contamination. The plan has garnered tremendous support.
It’s a complicated idea. The design is a plus-sign shaped pool, named + Pool (Plus Pool), floating in the East River, filled with river water, which is filtered by the walls of the pool itself.
The pool walls will function as a giant strainer composed of filtration material that sifts out contaminants and odors. These walls would be composed of layers of polypropylene, a non-woven geotextile. Each layer is dedicated to remove a specific range of contamination so that no single layer is overburdened. The first layer filters out floatables, sediments, and oils. The secondary filtration removes algae, organic matter, and suspended solids. The final layer provides disinfection protection, filtering bacteria and viruses.
The pool will not use chlorine because one of the motivations for the pool is to swim in natural water. Furthermore, there will be a constant exchange between the water in the pool and the river itself, so the pool would actually play a small role in cleaning the river in the process. It is estimated that about 600,000 gallons of water will be filtered per day.
The pool will be anchored to the river bed, allowing it to rise and fall with waves and tides. Furthermore, because the pool will be floating and tethered to the river bed, it is designed to ride the waves and surges of a storm, like a boat. A big challenge that remains is to prevent other debris from washing into and colliding with the pool during a massive storm.
One of the main design features is that the pool should have an area for everyone, and that is the reason for the plus sign shape. It is actually four pools in one: a children’s pool, a sports pool, a lap pool, and a lounge pool, with a total of 9,000 square feet to accommodate up to 300 people at a time.
Show your support and buy a tile today. Group Tile — $25, White Tile — $199, Blue Tile — $249. Visit https://pluspool.org/product/details/pooltiles/ This July, + Pool co-founder Coates announced that New Yorkers will see a “temporary, proof-ofconcept pool in the coming year.”
“It’s been a long project,” Coates said, “particularly because there’s nothing else like it anywhere, so there’s no code with the Department of Health to actually permit it. That part has taken such a long time.”
The project is being funded by numerous sponsors, including Heineken, which has chipped in with more than $100,000. The design team has also held a lot of fundraisers, including a pool party that they put on in July that raised approximately $75,000. The public is also contributing to its construction through the purchase of one of the pool’s 70,000 tiles for $25, $199, or $249. Sponsors can have their name engraved on a tile that will go on the pool.
The pool was originally slated to open in the summer of 2016. However, given the unusual nature of the project, the date has been pushed back, and the team believes they are realistically a few summers away from completion.
“We’re still a few years out,” Coates said. “But now it feels within our grasp because we have the support of the city and our mayor Eric Adams. We have the support of the Economic Development Corporation; we have a home and a beautiful community of people that are supporting the project. So, it feels like it’s way more possible right now than ever before.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to the project with the purchase of an engraved tile can visit www.pluspool. org.