By Lori Bongiorno


For the first time ever, New York City invites residents to swim in pools made from repurposed garbage dumpsters as part of its third annual Summer Streets program. The city is closing down Park Avenue to cars on three consecutive Saturdays (August 7, 14, and 21) so people can spread out to bike, walk, play, watch live theater, and swim.   


On Saturday, 420 swimmers took a dip in one of the three pools located near the Grand Central viaduct on Park Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets. The pools will be open for the next two Saturdays (August 14 and 21) from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. The city is distributing bracelets on a first-come first-serve basis so swimmers can enter in shifts.


Only 10 people can swim comfortably in a pool at a time.  Each 8-by-22 foot dumpster pool is surrounded by a wrap-around deck and has its own built-in water filtration system. Unfortunately, dumpster-diving is prohibited since the pools are only 3 to 4 ½ feet deep. Each unused dumpster has been equipped with a layer of felt (so it’s soft to stand on) and pool lining liners before being filled with around 4,600 gallons of chlorinated water and weighs approximately 50,000 pounds. 


The pools’ designer, David Belt, whose firm Macro Sea created its first dumpster pool in Brooklyn last year, thinks the idea of people swimming in dumpsters in front of Grand Central is hilarious. It also has the potential to reduce the pretentiousness of Park Avenue, he says, but his goals are broader.


Belt says these code-compliant portable pools can be used in any city. “I think it would be so great if different municipalities that couldn’t afford to build a whole park could set up these pop-up pools.” The best part? They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to transport so a city could move pools around to different neighborhoods. (Belt says it costs $200 to move a dumpster on the back of a truck in New York City.)


All the parts for the three dumpster pools he’s lending the city were donated so he’s still figuring out the exact cost of each pool. But Belt points out that it’s significantly cheaper to use dumpster pools than to build and maintain permanent pools and the parks that house them. 


When Summer Streets closes, the pools will be moved to an undisclosed location in   

East Harlem for an end-of-the-summer surprise pool party for junior high and high school students.

 If Belt’s idea catches on maybe we’ll see dumpster pools on Market Street in San Francisco, 2nd Street in Austin, TX, or even Orchard Street in Singapore next summer!