new yorkers to reclaim their river water


Lucky New Yorkers may soon be swimming in a floating, plus-shaped pool of freshly filtered East River water. After over ten years of planning, +POOL is at last set to become a reality. The unique plan was first conceived in 2010, from a small team of engineers who launched +POOL with the dream of safely swimming in the East River. At its core, the project will serve as an aquatic filtering facility, each day cleaning one million gallons of the infamous — albeit greatly improved — river water. Last Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a $16 million investment from both the city and the state, with plans to begin testing at scale as early as summer 2024. Following this timeline, the team hopes to complete the project as a free and accessible public swimming pool by next year.

new york floating pool
images courtesy Friends of +POOL



floating +POOL purifies the surrounding water


New York’s rivers and harbors are the cleanest they’ve been in years,’ writes the team at Friends of +POOL, making the case for its floating swimming pool. Over the past three decades, there has been a significant reduction in average fecal coliform and Enterococcus levels. This improvement can be attributed to the elimination of raw sewage dumping, the prevention of illegal discharges into the river, and the decrease in Combined Sewer Overflows. Now, it is important to explore means of providing safe access to these waters for public recreation, with the ultimate aim of establishing safe swimming conditions in saline environments. +POOL will purify the very water in which it floats with a unique system consisting of three layers and a final disinfection that meets bathing beach standards for swimmable water. In 2017, Friends of + POOL filed a provisional patent application on this filtration system, followed by an international patent in 2018.

new york floating pool



a decade of planning will come to life


Although it may seem ambitious, the floating, self-filtering system by Friends at +POOL has undergone a series of testing phases in New York’s East River already. Launched on kickstarter in 2010, +POOL raised over $40,000 in seven days. These funds were used to test the first layer of filtration at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Summer 2011. The research was used to approach city officials for the first time with the idea.

By 2013, the second kickstarter campaign raised more than $300,000. This funded a scaled version of the filtration system in the Hudson River that was tested for six months in Summer 2014. With collaborators including Brooklyn-based naval architects Persak & Wurmfeld, fabricators at Olollo, filtration textiles and system specialists at Mackworth, the marine science field station River Project, scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and engineers at Arup. The nonprofit Friends of +POOL was founded in 2015, proving that its technology is possible and that it can filter natural river water without the use of chemicals.

new york city's self-filtering +POOL to float in the east river this summer



a landmark investment in swimming for new york


The governor’s plans to move forward with +POOL follow a summer of record heat as New Yorkers sought respite in the city’s pools, rivers, and in the ocean. Governor Hochul notes that this turn to the water brought a record number of drownings, a number exasperated by a lifeguard shortage last summer, and the cancellation of free swim lessons by Mayor Adams. The team hopes that the addition of a safe public swimming pool will be one step toward helping all New Yorkers learn to swim. The initiative, which includes $12 million from New York State and $4 million from New York City, will mark the largest statewide investment in swimming since the New Deal of the 1930s.

new york city's self-filtering +POOL to float in the east river this summer



(January 12th, 2023) +POOL co-founder and architect Dong-Ping Wong released a statement concerning the project as both the originator and a member of Chinatown where the project is intended to be built:Last Friday Governor Hochul announced $16m of City and State funding towards the construction of + POOL. This is a huge and commendable commitment from the City and State, and a testament to the tireless work of the organization and collaborators after years of pushing. But it’s also bittersweet.


When I started + POOL the goal wasn’t to just build a pool. The goal was to see if it was possible to make big civic changes to the city from the ground up for places that often get overlooked. When we decided to start a non profit in 2015, it was based on the ideal that a non-profit would protect the project from private interests and ensure it remained a project truly for everyone.

As the project became more reliant on the philanthropic ecosystem of New York, and ascended into fancier rooms and levels of power, the ideals that grounded the project in the first place slowly gave way to interests that prioritized money, exposing the project to the levers of gentrification.

new york city's self-filtering +POOL to float in the east river this summer



Dong-Ping Wong continues:When + POOL secured its site in Chinatown in 2019, a neighborhood that is the home to my studio and where I am a proud and committed member of the community, it did so in the service of luxury housing. The de Blasio administration had been caught exploiting loopholes to waive through a series of new tower developments that the community deeply opposed. The mayor’s office was clear that they granted us the site because they needed a win.

I have expressed my concerns to the leadership about the long standing lack of diversity of the + POOL board. I have also suggested multiple times that the organization needed clear guidelines with which to address the discrimination that public swimming pools have historically exacerbated. These issues were repeatedly dismissed, I was frozen out of the project, and to date I am unaware of any true community involvement with the residents of Chinatown.

new york city's self-filtering +POOL to float in the east river this summer



With + POOL closer to reality, I worry about how the leadership will treat the neighborhood’s long-standing communities — the majority of whom are people of color and lower income. I’m concerned about what concessions to access might be made in the service of commercial interests and about what agreements with predatory developers might be taking place without my knowledge.

I love + POOL. There is no project that represents my work better or that I am prouder of. But I love Chinatown more and I will do whatever I can to protect the future of the neighborhood. I certainly hope that includes + POOL, but for it to live up to its promise, and the promise of Governor Hochul, it must take this milestone as an opportunity to not only work with members of the community but to evolve the leadership in to one that has the ability to faithfully serve the neighborhood.’



project info:


project title: +POOL

nonprofit: Friends of +POOL | @pluspoolny

previous coverage: June 2018, August 2017