The whole concept is so crazy that it just might work. For about 12 years now, the folks behind the non-profit organization “Friends of + Pool” have been working to design, construct, engineer, and, with the city’s help and approval, operate a massive plus-shaped swimming pool, filled with filtered river water, that would float out on the East River and be available for all New Yorkers to use for both sports and recreation.
The + Pool concept, designed by Family New York and PLAYLAB Inc. (Image by Luxigon)
“It’s been a long project,” Archie Lee Coates IV, one + Pool’s four co-founders, tells Brooklyn Magazine. “Particularly because there’s nothing else like it anywhere, so there’s no code with the Department of Health to actually permit it. That part has taken such a long time.”
In fact, the original team — in addition to Coates, the other co-founders are Jeff Franklin, Dong-Ping Wong, and Oana Stanescu, designers and architects all — has been plugging away at the project since 2010. But two big hurdles were recently cleared: the city gave their official preliminary blessing with a “confirmation to proceed with due diligence,” and + Pool, when and if it ever exists, now has a designated home, floating off of Pier 35 just north of the Manhattan Bridge.
Last night Coates even promised we’d see a “temporary, proof-of-concept pool in the coming year.”
To get closer to that reality, Friends of + Pool needs money. And to get some of that money, yesterday evening they threw a sold-out fundraising gala on the deck of the Bellslip, one of those slick new luxury residential towers from Brookfield at Greenpoint Landing.
It was, of course, a pool party. Though no one was allowed in the pool.
There were cocktails sipped by the money-donating swells, and passed bites from BITE catering. Michna, the DJ, laid down a chill all-vinyl set, and at one point some friendly swimsuit models strutted around in Gabriela Pires designs.
+ Pool co-founder Archie Lee Coates IV (left) with DJ Michna (Scott Lynch)
The Bellslip’s sprawling, third-floor deck made for an undeniably pleasant perch. And while there was no swimming, bidding was encouraged at the silent auction (up for bid: underwater headphones, Knicks tickets, lots of sunglasses, a a wine country glamping trip, a Cindy Sherman floaty). In all, the event raised approximately $75,000 for the non-profit in support of free public and educational programs, they say.
No swimming at the pool party fundraiser for the + Pool (Scott Lynch)
But by far the coolest thing about the whole affair was the + Pool itself, or at least the idea of it. The reason why the proposed pool shaped like a big plus sign is so each of its “wings” can be used for a different function: one for kids, one for laps, one for team sports, and one for lounging. It’s four pools in one. Or all 9,500 square feet can be dedicated to one activity, like a giant free swim or whatever. Maximum capacity is up to 300 people at a time.
This Cindy Sherman pool float sold for $350 (Scott Lynch)
And if swimming in East River water sounds, well, a little gross to you — Coates acknowledges that “27 billion gallons of raw sewage” gets dumped into the river every year — if this thing works, the filters built into the pool walls will remove “bacteria, contaminants and odors” from over 600,000 gallons of the stuff every day.
While we wait to jump in (or not), know that Friends of + Pool has been busy with other, related programs as well, including an extensive network of Learn to Swim classes that Coates said has taught “hundreds of kids” since its inception.
So is + Pool real, or just some fevered design-team dream fueled by an endless series of fundraisers?
“We’re still a few years out,” says Coates. “But now it feels within our grasp because we have the support of the city and our mayor Eric Adams, we have the support of the Economic Development Corporation, we have a home, and a beautiful community of people that are supporting the project. So it feels like it’s way more possible right now than ever before.”