Few New Yorkers would imagine themselves diving into one of the city’s rivers, no matter how hot a summer day it became. The waterways have an infamous reputation for their pollution with some comparing them to vats of toxic waste. But getting people to swim in the river is exactly what +POOL is attempting to do. The initiative, founded by a group of young engineers and architects, is now set to build a floating pool which filters the East River, making it swimmable once again.

The rivers haven’t always been off-limits. At one point, there were as many as 15 floating “pools” across the city. As immigration to New York City increased in the wake of the Civil War, people who lacked proper bathroom facilities needed the public baths, as they were called. However, a century of industrialization and water quality concerns led to most of the pools closing. Though the 1972 Clean Water Act was meant to make every body of water safe for recreation, New Yorkers still stay away from the river.

A 2007 chlorinated floating pool called the Floating Pool Lady brought back a semblance of New York’s past. But if POOL+ becomes a reality the river will be open to swimming and recreation for the first time in a hundred years. The project has over 5,000 supporters, including Heineken, which produced a video explaining the idea in 2017.

The team has designed a filtration system that would provide clean water to the floating pool. It would also clean the river, itself. The project has raised more than $400,000 through donations, as well as publicity from celebrities like Kanye West and Neil Patrick Harris. And finally, this month, +POOL has received the green light to go ahead.

A statement on their website read:

“This very special week, we received an official “confirmation to proceed with due diligence” for our floating river swimming facility! This momentous event follows nearly two years of review by the city and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (“NYCEDC”). A confirmation to proceed means that we are free to work with the NYCEDC on next steps, which includes a project term sheet, logistics planning, on-site piloting and community engagement.”

The project needs private investment and donations, with some estimating that the project could cost upwards of $20 million. However, with the intense public interest, it seems that the filtered floating pool could become a reality in the upcoming years.

In the meantime, +POOL is hosting a conversation about floating pools with Ann Buttenwieser, the creator of the Floating Pool Lady. The +POOL team was inspired by the floating chlorinated pool made from a barge that now sits in the Bronx. Thousands of New Yorkers swim in the public pool every season.

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