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Checking In On +Pool, NYC's Futuristic Floating Attraction

+Pool is one of the zaniest projects proposed for the New York waterfront: this cross-shaped pool, floating in the East River, would employ a filtration system to clean the surrounding river water to use as pool water. Curbed has obsessed over the proposal for five years now, and since then it's gone through successful fundraising campaigns, celebrity endorsements, and lab tests that have proven that the filtration system could produce swimmable water.

This June, the +Pool team brought on marine engineers and water quality experts to test 10 potential locations for the pool. Locations include a number of piers along Hudson River Park (including the Circle Line launch point); Two Bridges on the Lower East Side; Governors Island; Bush Terminal Park in Sunset Park; Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo/Brooklyn Heights; off the future waterfront park of the Domino Sugar Factory development in South Williamsburg; Transmitter Park in Greenpoint; Hallets Point in Astoria; Hunters Point in Long Island City; and St. George in Staten Island.

Five months later, the team has narrowed down its options and made significant progress studying the engineering of a floating pool in each location. We spoke with Kara Meyer, one of the spokeswomen for +Pool, as well as Anand Agarwal, an engineer at McLaren Engineering Group who is working with the +Pool team, about how far this once pie-in-the-sky proposal has actually come along.


[The Float Lab was designed to test filtration in real-river conditions. Via +Pool]

There are three main things +Pool has focused on since picking the 10 potential locations: the physical conditions and engineering challenges of each site, the water quality there, and the level of community interest. "While we could install a pool in a lot of different places, there are only a couple that will really work with our timeline and will provide the right public access," says Meyer. While the +Pool team is considering public accessibility and the willingness of the surrounding community, the engineers have been measuring things like tides, currents and water levels in each location.

"Because the structure is below water, we need to make sure the water will be deep enough," says Agarwal. He's currently looking for water depths of 10 to 20 feet, although that's a rough number that could change based on the design of the pool. Agarwal also notes that "we want to make sure the water doesn't move too fast... we don't want everyone in the pool being nauseous."

Although +Pool isn't ready to officially release a narrowed down list of contending locations, Meyer did point out a few that have been particularly interesting. Hallets Cove, outside Socrates Sculpture Park, looks inviting because there's an active community group that has expressed interest. Agarwal also pointed out that because it's located within a cove, the pool is less likely to move because it's protected by it. Transmitter Park presents a similar situation, with an interested community organization and water that's protected by the surrounding piers. Domino Sugar Factory has potential— "There's a new park coming to the area, it will be easily accessible and there would be great views of the Williamsburg Bridge," says Agarwal—but environmental forces like the strength of the current make it more challenging.


[Postcard of a potential +Pool location, via PlayLab + Family]

Community support will be crucial to the project, says Meyer. "We want to make this process transparent to the public," she says. "Right now, we are talking to stakeholders and gauging community interest." She says the team hasn't faced any real opposition to date, and has gained support of organizations like Greenshores in Astoria and Open Space Alliance in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. "We very much value these relationships and have even been speaking with these communities about the possibility of installing second and third iterations of +Pool at the sites should the launch of +Pool not be possible at their site," she says.

With a finalized list of locations, Meyer expects +Pool will begin working with permitting agencies over the next six months to find out which sites can be permitted. That won't be a simple process, as they'll have to work with city, state and federal agencies like the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Health and Department of Environmental Health. "We want to see if we can actually permit at the site before we make a public announcement," she says. The permitting process is then expected to take anywhere from a year and a half to two years.

There's also the matter of funding the project, estimated to cost $17 million. "We're discussing the next round of funding and if we should do another Kickstarter," says Meyer. "While we are not done fundraising by any means, we're also diversifying in a lot of ways." Last month, for example, +Pool hosted a fall gala/late-night dance party in which all the proceeds from ticket sales supported the project. There's also a 'Buy a Tile, Build a Pool' fundraiser now up that's raised over $360,000.


[The Tile by Tile fundraiser, via +Pool]

But this far into the process, the +Pool proposal has officially morphed from an idealistic experiment into a real-life capital project. "This is a feasible project we know can actually work," says Meyer. "So we're figuring out how to move ahead not just thinking of it as a pie-in-the-sky idea."

"We're engineers so we tend to believe anything is possible," Agarwal says about the potential of building the pool. He noted that while the "+" design is unique, it wouldn't necessarily make for a difficult construction project, which is estimated to take one to two years. At the right site, he says, they could even prefabricate the parts and put it together easily on site. "It's a back and forth project to coordinate with agencies, designers, community boards," he says. "But the response so far has been positive. Everyone wants to see this done."
· +Pool [official]
· New York's Zany Floating Pool Will Test 10 Potential Locations [Curbed]
· The Floating +Pool in the East River Is Almost a Real Thing [Curbed]
· Zany East River Pool Inches Toward Reality With Filtration Lab [Curbed]
· These 5 Futuristic Parks May Transform NYC's Landscape [Curbed]
· All +Pool coverage [Curbed]