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Designers Plan Swimming Pools in Manhattan's Rivers

By Amy Zimmer | June 17, 2011 12:48pm | Updated on June 18, 2011 3:17pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — Imagine jumping into the East or Hudson river and swimming laps in clean, filtrated river water.

It could happen.

A group of designers — Dong-Ping Wong of Family, Archie Lee Coates IV and Jeffrey Franklin of PlayLab — have spent the last year working with engineers, swimmers, consultants and planners on studying the possibilities for such a project, which they're calling +Pool.

"It was a really hot summer and we were thinking, wouldn't it be great if we had more pools?" Franklin said.

Then they started considering bigger issues: the need for more recreation in the city, the issue of water cleanliness and whether something could be created in an environmentally sound way — using actual river water.

They released a preliminary engineering report on Friday conducted in collaboration with engineers from Arup New York examining the water quality, filtration, structural, mechanical and energy systems of their plans.

Now they are moving into the next phase: raising $25,000 through the micro-financing site Kickstarter to begin testing the filtration membranes studied in the report.

The pool filters river water through its wall, Franklin explained.

"It's like we're dropping a big strainer into the river," he said. "You're still in the river water. It's just a little cleaner and safer."

The filtration system has three layers to remove bacteria, contaminants and odors and, finally, to disinfect the water so it's safe and swimmable under city, state and federal standards of water quality.

The designers have so far raised more than $9,500, but need to reach their $25,000 goal by July 15 in order to get any of the money for the testing device.

They hope to develop that into a full-scale working prototype of a section of the 9,000-square-foot pool. Their design includes four pools in one for different uses — for children, sports, laps and lounging.

The group has not selected any sites for its pool dreams — it will largely depend on whether a developer or city agency expresses interest, Franklin said.

Their mock-up drawings situate it in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which had been home to the Floating Pool Lady barge in 2007 before it moved to the Bronx.

But they looked at several other possible preliminary locations, including in Manhattan along the East River near Stuyvesant Town at 23rd Street, and along the Hudson above 59th Street, just above Battery Park and at Riverbank State Park at 135th Street.

"Our main criteria thus far has been finding places where the water is relatively still and away from heavy traffic," Franklin said.

He doesn't know how much a full scale pool would cost, but estimates it would be more than the $5 million Floating Pool Lady.

Manhattan has a rich history of floating pools. The city's elite swam in them off the coast of the Battery in the early 19th century and in the early 1900s, immigrants flocked to bathhouses along the East and Hudson rivers since many lacked proper bathing facilities at home.

"It's an old idea, but especially with the water becoming cleaner, it's coming around again," said Roland Lewis, of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

"Getting it permitted, funded and built is no small endeavor, but this is how progress is made," Lewis continued.

"I applaud their vision. It's a double good thing: cleaning the water and providing recreation," he said.

"The more we open up our waterfront, the more people touch and feel and use the water for recreation, education, for their jobs using ferries, the more people realize its an immense resource."