NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new sculpture floating in the East River looks to shed light on water quality around the city.

Pier 17 on the East River offers stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and old ships at port. CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reports now, there’s something new to feast your eyes on.

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(Credit: CBS2)

“It kind of looks like trash,” said Caitlynn Brown, a visitor from Maine.

“Harbor clean-up. Maybe that’s what it is?” said Kristyn Rose, of Seaport.

Reasonable guesses, but not correct.

The 50-foot-by-50-foot floating plus sign is art. At night, it lights up.

“It’s almost like a lighthouse,” Port Washington resident Arthur Kapinos said.

He’s right. The lights can inform you. They change color in real time to indicate if the water is clean or not clean. The sculpture is called “Plus Pool Light.”

“We wanted to create a way for the public to visualize water quality data,” said Kara Meyer, managing director of Friends of Plus Pool.

(Credit: CBS2)

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Meyer says the plus sign on the water symbolizes positivity and inclusivity.

“It represents the fact that the water is for all of us,” she said.

She adds the quality has improved a lot since the Clean Water Act of 1972 — and since Kramer went for a swim in a 1997 episode of “Seinfeld.”

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Most of the data collected to decide which color the sculpture will glow is collected in the water around Manhattan, but there is some critical information collected at the foot of Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

CBS2 joined Wade McGillis, a professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather station. He’s one of many working to translate water quality into color.

“Think of our river system as a living organism, and if you feed it junk food, it’s not going to be very healthy,” McGillis said.

When it rains, our rivers get a lot of junk from our sewer system. Using total rainfall measured at the castle helps forecast water quality.

“Observances come together every 15 minutes to tell what the lights are going to do,” McGillis said.

One goal: to someday put a floating pool you can actually swim in right in the East River.

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All of the data collected is available to the public at