Could a Floating Pool Bring Swimmers Back to the City’s Rivers?

A rendering of the pool, if it were placed near the Brooklyn Bridge. The creators are also considering putting the pool in the Hudson.

By Alex Israel

Manhattan is surrounded by water—but for nearly 80 years, residents have been dissuaded from swimming in it. In 2010, four friends decided to change that, in the form of + POOL: a proposal for a plus-shaped, floating pool in the inner harbor of the NYC waterfront, designed to filter the very river that it floats in through its walls.

According to their website, + POOL was launched with the ambition to improve the use of the city’s natural resources by providing a clean and safe way for the public to swim in New York’s waters, functioning like a giant strainer dropped into the river. “It will filter bacteria and contaminants through the concentric layers of filtration materials that make up the walls of the pool itself – leaving only clean, safe, and swimmable river water. The Olympic-size pool will filter over 600,000 gallons of river water daily, making a measurable contribution towards cleaning the city’s waterways.”

+ POOL’s goal is to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and was thus designed as four pools in one: Children’s Pool, Sports Pool, Lap Pool and Lounge Pool. Depending on the situation, this layout is flexible—alternative configuration options for Free Swim and Swim Meets are also available.

As 2017 comes to an end, + POOL’s vision has yet to become a reality—but it’s getting closer. Numerous Kickstarters and a non-profit later, they received backing from The Cities Project by Heineken, an initiative intended to make a positive impact in cities all around the globe.

This week, + POOL met with Community Board 7’s Parks & Environment Committee to spread awareness and generate excitement about their proposal within the community. According to + POOL Deputy Director Kara Meyer, the organization is “currently discussing placement” of the pool in initial conversations with Mayor de Blasio’s office. At this time they are keeping their options open and exploring potential sites along both sides of the East River, as well as the Manhattan side of the Hudson River.

Once an installation location is selected, + POOL will develop a more detailed site-specific design plan so they can apply for the necessary city and state permits to move forward with the project. From there, according to Meyer, it will cost approximately $20 million to build one + POOL. The organization is hoping to gain some private funding for the project, but also aims to work “in partnership with the city” to develop the pool as a public entity that everybody can enjoy.

While they work with the city to determine a location, + POOL is calling for 100,000 people to sign a petition in support of the project, which will result in a $100,000 contribution from Heineken—and help convince city officials that the project is worth pursuing.

According to + POOL, once it finally opens, “it will be the first time New Yorkers have been able to swim directly in their river since 1938.” To follow the project’s progress, keep an eye on their timeline, which is updated regularly.

See an informational video below.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Rodger Lodger says:

      The Bowery Boys (aka East Side or Dead End Kids) have endorsed this proposal.

    2. Bloomingdaler says:

      Nice to see this concept being revived….. it’s not a new thing. There was a pool floating in the Hudson off the UWS in the 1930s.

    3. Elizabeth Sachs says:

      Put it in by the new sports complex by 66th street and I’m sure lots of people would use it!

    4. Ruth Tuft says:

      What a great, creative idea. I hope it succeeds in becoming a reality.

    5. Henry P. says:

      There are many ongoing swimming organizations currently making use of all of our waterways. Last year more than 3,000 people swim in the Hudson, East River, Harlem River so +Pool will certainly not be either the first or the only way that we can get directly into our waterways.

      • Alex Israel says:

        + POOL doesn’t claim to be the first floating pool concept (they admit they were inspired by the barges in the 1930s!), but they claim to be the first one that allows people to swim directly in the river in a single public place, rather than in a pool on top of a barge on top of the river.

      • Ira Gershenhorn says:

        Where does that 3,000 number come from? Is that one person doing multiple swims or 3,000 swims? I swim in the Hudson River during the summer pretty much every other week. I have five issues with the Hudson River. (1) I prefer to swim when its sunny out and not two windy, (2) I prefer high tide because I don’t want to deal with the roughness of barnacles and I don’t like to have to traverse too much rip rap to enter. (I haven’t yet found a ladder for entering/exiting the river). (3) I prefer slack current because swimming in tread mill mode is not enjoyable – this results in checking tide tables for the best hour of the day, (4) I can only swim on weekends because I work during the week, (5) I will only go in the water when it hasn’t rained for 2 days in advance because of the CSO issue. A Plus Pool would allow me to go swimming every weekend without having to deal with all this complexity. I swim three days each week in a chlorinated pool where I dare not swim without googles. The googles are not necessary in the Hudson River.

        As I understand it, the swimming barges in the Hudson predated Dept of Health regulations. The DOH only has regs for beaches and pools. It does not have regs for flow through pools. Why should it? There aren’t any. Plus Pool has to assist the DOH with those regs because there are no flow through pools.

    6. Chris says:

      very exciting!

    7. Bob Leonard says:

      Great idea. Love it. But how about fixing up Lasker Pool for starters? Not sexy, I know, but it’s a decent pool right in Central Park and you can take the subway there!

      • 92nd Street says:

        If you are an UWSider, then you can easily walk to Lasker, no Subway required.

        Lasker needs no renovation, it’s perfectly fine

        Love the ideal of a Pool that actually filters the River – Genius!

      • Ira Gershenhorn says:

        Have you been to Lasker? I used to go there. Its overcrowded. There are long lines. Guess what? We need more pools. I went for the morning lap swim and I was also there in the afternoon. Either time was too crowded.

    8. Steen says:

      The work they have done so far to try to get this accomplished is incredible. I love their determination

    9. UWS_lifer says:

      What the heck are these people smoking??

      This has got to be the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard of. Who the heck has time for swimming anyway?!? Get back to work everybody!!

    10. Adam says:

      If the pool is heated I’m all for trying one.

    11. 92nd Street says:

      The MTA should be in charge of it, so it will work flawlessly and with zero delays.

    12. Rocky M says:

      The water in the Hudson ain’t exactly Rocky Mountain spring water. Not sure I’d recommend swimming in it for very long.

    13. CosmoAndCharlie says:

      I also think that the money would be better spent on the Lasker pool in Central Park, or even Lasker II. Upgrade the existing pool, add a dedicated lap pool, improve the locker room and put some money towards increased staffing.

    14. Dr. Cary Goodman says:

      CB7’s Parks Committee spent more time discussing this project aimed at a pool for the East River than it has EVER spent discussing the threat to Teddy Roosevelt Park from the AMNH.

      At this week’s meeting they ruled out considering the loss of parkland completely.

      These are our community voices?

      • GG says:

        Yes, “Dr” Goodman, the community has spoken.

        Just because you don’t like what they said doesn’t mean they haven’t. You are a well educated guy I assume. You should have been able to figure that out already.:)

    15. Sean says:

      X marks the spot? Anyone?