making a splash

East River Swimming Pool One Stroke Closer to Reality

The city's Economic Development Corporation has requested concepts for a pool in the East River near the Two Bridges neighborhood.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation has requested concepts for a pool in the East River near the Two Bridges neighborhood. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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River swimming may be paddling toward Manhattan.

The city’s economic development agency on Wednesday put out a call for concepts for bringing a self-filtering pool to the East River — an idea pushed for years by a nonprofit called +POOL.

In its “request for expressions of interest,” the NYC Economic Development Corp. said it hopes to “provide the public with a swim facility which is capable of filtering the waters of the East River to enable safe recreational access to clean water.”

“The project will restore a lapsed tradition of river swimming dating back to the late 1800s of the first floating bathing areas in the East River, and further the City’s goal of improving access to recreational waterfront space,” the proposal says, adding that the pool is “expected to be one of the first installations of an urban river-sourced swim facility in the United States.”

The concept echoes an idea first floated in 2010 by +POOL, a group that runs swimming programs with an aim of bringing a 9,000-square-foot floating pool to a New York river.

Kara Meyer, deputy director at +POOL, said the group was pleasantly surprised by EDC’s move and are reviewing the 26-page solicitation. “We’re looking forward to responding,” she said.

+POOL had previously identified multiple sites for their plus-shaped pool design, most of which were in the East River. (It had considered the Hudson River, too, Meyer said, but much of it is too shallow.)

Nonprofit +Pool says it's designed a swimming area that can float on the East River and filter its water.
Nonprofit +Pool created a rendering of a swimming area they say can float on the East River and filter its water. Photo: Courtesy of +Pool

The EDC project targets the Lower East Side, zeroing in on a span of the river between the Brooklyn Bridge and the south end of Pier 35.

Applicants are supposed to have the financial ability to build and operate the facility, and bring in money to keep it running.

“A successful Respondent will demonstrate that the construction, installation, and operation of a swim facility in the East River is possible without funding from NYCEDC or the city,” the document reads.

Idea floated for years

Longtime Lower East Side resident Trever Holland lives adjacent to the part of the river slated to get the pool. He’s heard about the idea from +POOL for years, including at Manhattan Community Board 3, where he co-chairs the waterfront committee. But the idea had been floated for the area near the South Street Seaport, or off the shore of Brooklyn Bridge Park, he said.

“It was like, maybe we’ll do something over there,” he said of his neighborhood, Two Bridges. “But I didn’t think it was a real possibility, to be honest.”

He has questions about the accessibility and affordability of any pool that gets installed, and how it will jive with a multi-tower plan for new development in the Two Bridges area and a $1.3 billion resiliency project being considered now for the Lower East Side waterfront.

But on the whole, he says “it’s interesting.”

“I’m not going to lie and say it’s not something that could work, if it’s for the community,” he said. “The timing is just a bit odd.”

There is no specific timeline for when the pool may be constructed. Those interested in responding to the EDC’s request for proposal must do so by November 1.

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