New York greenlights floating public pool on the East River

Published 20th May 2021
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Credit: Family New York
New York greenlights floating public pool on the East River
Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN
New York City is one step closer to welcoming an unusual new landmark: an Olympic-length public pool floating in the East River.
After more than 10 years of crowdfunding, testing and campaigning, the project's designers say city authorities have now given them a green light to proceed with the plan.
The proposal, dubbed "+ Pool," will see a 285,500-gallon public pool built on a floating island. Layers of "filtration membranes" will make the water safe for swimming while simultaneously cleaning the surrounding river, according to project organizers, who say the pool will clean 600,000 gallons of river water every day.
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A rendering of + Pool. Credit: Family New York
Shaped like a plus sign, the pool's four arms will serve different purposes: for children, sport, swimming laps and lounging. It will accommodate up to 300 people at a time, with a proposed daily capacity of 1,800 visitors.
The project was conceived in 2010 as a collaboration between design firm PlayLab and the co-founders of the now-defunct New York architecture practice, Family. The designers have since consulted with engineers and naval architects to improve the pool's design, with the project attracting backing from high-profile figures including Kanye West and actor Neil Patrick Harris. New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has also made + Pool a part of his policy platform, pledging to "bring the first self-filtering, floating swimming pool to NYC."
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Another rendering of + Pool against the New York skyline. Credit: Family New York

The green light

According to PlayLab, New York's Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has now given it "confirmation to proceed with due diligence." The green light means the designers can begin working on "project term sheet, logistics planning, on-site piloting and community engagement," according to a post announcing the decision.
Organizers are still looking to raise both private and public capital to make the project a reality, with + Pool estimated to cost more than $20 million. Supporters are also able to pay for and customize one of the pool's 70,000 tiles, for anywhere between $25 and $249.
The team behind + Pool has already tested its filtration technology in another New York locale: the Hudson River. In 2014, project organizers launched a small-scale version of the pool, called "Float Lab," to see how it performed in real-life river conditions. Funded by a $300,000 Kickstarter drive, the designers partnered with scientists at Columbia University and engineering firm Arup to test the technology, concluding that it could "filter river water to pool quality standards without using chemicals."
Beyond funding, there are still several logistical hurdles for project to overcome, such as protecting the pool from floating debris during storms and operating during the winter months. At present, + Pool is slated to stay open for 15 weeks of the year, though the project designers said they are exploring the use of solar energy to heat the pool for swimmers in cold weather.