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Floating pool is set to improve health of NYC's rivers and its residents

In the 1870s, New York City's public health officials created floating pools along the city's harbor. They closed a few decades later due to environmental degradation. Now, thanks to stricter regulations, New York City's rivers are cleaner than they've been in a long time. Meanwhile, municipal pools are declining in number. A nonprofit water stewardship organization has developed a solution: + POOL, a large, floating public pool that can be anchored in one of the city's rivers.

Taking the shape of a plus sign, + POOL is adaptable by design: it can be reconfigured and partitioned off for swim classes, lap swimming, watersports and children's activities. In total, the pool's surface will measure 9,000 square feet. Aiming to improve both the health of NYC's residents and the rivers that surround them, + POOL will clean over 1,000,000 gallons of river water every day. Water is filtered through multiple layers in the pool's walls, removing bacteria and other contaminants and creating a safe space to swim.

Originating as the brainchild of four young designers in 2010, + POOL has now received USD 12 million in funding from New York State and USD 4 million from New York City to open a pilot pool in summer 2024. 

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According to + POOL, 79% of children in NYC households with incomes less than USD 50,000 have little to no swimming skills. No wonder, since there's only one public pool for every 126,808 residents. But this isn't just about safety and physical health — blue spaces are linked to reduced psychological distress and improved mental wellbeing.

Swimming outdoors, under a big sky and looking out over an expansive river, is a sure way to evoke feelings of awe — an emotion linked to a host of mental and social benefits, from getting people out of their own head to making them kinder to others. Initiatives like + POOL can provide nature-deprived urban populations with a new way to engage with the outdoors. One to bring to a water-adjacent city near you?

Innovation of the day