+POOL is designed to clean actual river water using an ingenious filtration technique that cleans half a million gallons of water a day as they pass through the pool’s walls. An ambitious undertaking, and one that would give New Yorkers the chance to enjoy a dip in clean river water for the first time in 100 years. “The rivers here aren’t swimmable, but we thought they should be. So, instead of cleaning the entire river, we proposed to clean just a part of it, enough for people to swim in,” adds Archie Lee Coates IV, one of the project’s initiators.

The pool’s layout is split into four arms to accommodate every type of swimmer. The plus shape encourages swimmers, bathers, loungers, and children to make the most of their own area, attracting a wide range of people to the pool.

+Pool areas
+POOL areas

In 2011, when the +POOL team launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund its first filtration test on the East River, they attracted more than a thousand backers. Recently, +POOL looked for a further $ 250,000 to finance the project’s Float Lab, once again via the Kickstarter website. Set up in 2009, this popular crowdfunding platform proved a viable alternative to traditional project financing, helped by people around the world. Here, projects only receive the pledged money if they attain their stated funding goals – leading to more than 45,000 funded projects (over $699 million) supported by a total of 4.4 million ‘investors.’

To leverage Kickstarter’s crowdsourcing acumen and potential, the +POOL introduced Tile By Tile, a campaign that gives every supporter a piece of the pool – and pride of place on a tile. “The community is at the forefront of this project, and so we thought it’d be nice if we gave everybody a way to claim a piece of the pool for themselves,” states Archie.

If every single tile is sponsored this way, the resulting contributions would cover the +POOL’s entire $15 million construction budget. Scheduled to open in 2016, the floating project would become the largest crowdfunded civic project to date. Starting at $ 25 for a group tile, where the buyer’s name shares a tile with seven others, the range of Kickstarter options goes all the way up to $9,999 for a marble tile featuring the supporter’s name plus VIP access to the pool at all season.

At the time of writing, +POOL had managed to secure $ 273,114 from 3,175 backers through its crowdfunding campaign. This August, the money will be used to build the Float Lab, a temporary and miniature floating science lab version of the +POOL.

From August onwards, this Float Lab will be used to test materials and check the East River’s water quality for 10 weeks while ensuring clean and safe water in the pool. Designed specifically to serve as a river-based floating pool, such a system has never actually been tried before, according to the +POOL team. Once all tests are wrapped up and the filter system has been adjusted, the project will be well on its way and hopefully, with the help of private donations, open for business by 2016. Backed by a great team – and public support – +POOL certainly proves that community-based projects can prevail via crowdfunding.

Or, as Archie puts it, “+POOL not only reclaims the water as public space to swim in, but also creates a new model for building large-scale civic projects in the city.”

Text: Lilly Wolf
All photos, incl. the header image, by +POOL