Self-filtering floating pool pilot to be installed in NYC this summer
+POOL Rendering, 2024. Designed by Family New York & Playlab, Inc. Image by proto.
New York City will test the waters of a self-filtering floating pool this summer. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams on Friday committed $16 million to the nonprofit +POOL, which has worked for over a decade to build a swimming pool in the East River. The group plans to launch a pilot pool to demonstrate and test +POOL’s unique filtration system this summer, with the hopes of opening to swimmers in 2025. The news comes as part of a larger proposal from the governor to expand access to swimming across the state.
“New York’s waterways are currently out of bounds from those who could benefit from them,” Kara Meyer, managing director at Friends of +POOL, said. “+POOL reclaims New York’s natural resources by opening our waters. It restores the utility of our waterways. It gives everyone the ability to enjoy the water. It enables people to care for and coexist with nature.”
+POOL first proposed the idea in 2010 and has worked with the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and local stakeholders for 10+ years to develop a plan, analyze the city’s water quality, and find the best spot for the pool.
In May 2021, the group announced it received approval to proceed with the creation of a +POOL on the south side of Pier 35 on the Lower East Side.
The structure is plus-shaped with four pools in one: a kiddie pool, a sports pool, a lap pool, and a lounge pool. The walls filter river water to remove bacteria and contaminants, leaving behind safe swimming water.
This summer, a 2,000-square-foot version of the +POOL structure will be on view to the public. The nonprofit says it will be able to get the final data needed to secure permits and the go-ahead for the pool’s full installation. The pilot will also help assess sites for “the build-out of pools across the state,” according to +POOL.
The NYC pilot floating pool is one part of Hochul’s broader NY SWIMS initiative, part of her 2024 State of the State proposals. Through NY SWIMS, the state will construct public pools in high-need areas, including in urban environments, and invest in the maintenance of parks and pools across NY.
NY SWIMS will deliver $150 million in public funding to build 10 new landmark swimming pools in underserved areas and communities that are most at risk of extreme heat events. The program will also drive the creation of new innovative pool designs and install temporary pop-up pools.
“Access to swimming isn’t just about recreation – it’s about public health and climate resiliency,” Hochul said. “NY SWIMS will be the largest statewide investment in swimming since the New Deal, expanding access for underserved communities and improving safety for kids across New York.”
The program will also work to develop new ways New Yorkers can engage with natural bodies of water across the state, including rivers and lakes. Proposed sites for swimming enhancements include Quarry Lake Beach at Sojourner Truth State Park in Kingston, Jones Beach, and Lake Sebago Beach in Harriman State Park.
The state will work to create initiatives that instruct New Yorkers on how to swim safely by addressing the statewide lifeguard shortage and increasing swimming instruction and amenities in pools and beaches. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages one through four.
Hochul’s announcement builds upon a statewide effort to expand access to swimming pools. In October, city officials broke ground on the $141 million Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center, a new facility coming to East Flatbush featuring an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, walking track, commercial teaching kitchen, a media lab, and more.
Despite this, some question the Adams administration’s commitment to providing swim instruction and access to pools. The city’s Parks Department received a 12 percent budget cut as part of the “program to eliminate the gap,” or PEG, as well as the delay of the city’s Swim Safety program, according to The City. These cuts come as the city continues to experience a lifeguard shortage, with not enough lifeguards available each summer to open all of the city’s beaches and pools.
In 2023, NYC Parks started its summer season with less than a third of its goal of 1,400 lifeguards, according to the Daily News. The city has tried to address the problem by creating a months-long recruiting program and by raising pay for first- and second-year lifeguards to more than $21 per hour.
To increase the supply of lifeguards, Hochul lowered the minimum age for some lifeguards to 15 and raised wages for lifeguards at state facilities.