Nosy Neighbor: What’s the Big Brother-looking structure at the Holland Tunnel?

Or better yet, “What’s an Oonee?”

Jolene Howard first sent photos back in June (below), noting that the structure looked like a “hidden-in-plain-sight lair for Dr. Evil.” I figured it would take days of emails to the Port Authority to figure it out and didn’t get on it, but then the answer came to my inbox last month. Never in a million years would I have come up with public bike storage. It opened on August 11. (Thanks to P. for the photo above.)

The Hudson Square Business Improvement District has commissioned the installation of the bike pod, created by Oonee, a Brooklyn-based company that designs the pods, and the Port Authority, to further the Port Authority’s goal of “encouraging more sustainable transportation choices and reducing emissions.” (They note that the pod is conveniently close to the Hudson Street bike path, but if they really wanted to help cyclists, they would push the city to create a bike path up the Tribeca portion of Hudson, which is basically a deathtrap for cyclists trying to reach said bike path, especially at rush hour.)

The bike parking pod is one of three in the city — Oonee works with government and private land owners to site them and their goal is to create a big network. This one holds 20 bikes. Users download an app so they can open the pod, then lock their bikes again inside. It is all free to cyclists. “We created Oonee after repeatedly experiencing bike theft while commuting in New York City,” the company says on its website. You can leave your bike for 72 hours — not sure what happens after that. Signing up requires uploading an ID of some kind, and while I downloaded the app, I didn’t want it to record my license number. (You can instead request a live chat by sending them an email.)

Jolene joined in 2022, but hadn’t found it convenient to use a pod; she checked out this one and sent this report:

Oonee members can park their bike for free in any Oonee station, but it is recommended that members lock their bikes inside of the station with their own locks, even if the bike is docked in a locking bay. It was super cool accessing the pod – all I needed was the app on my phone. As soon as I walked up to the pod, the doors opened like magic! The app tells you how many stations are open so you know in advance if there is room. The location here is super weird, but well-lit and truly in the middle of a lot of activity, so it does feel safe entering the structure, and being able to see everything inside from the outside is certainly a plus.

Funding for the bike parking pod installation was raised by Oonee, which also commissioned the mural designed in partnership with the BID to surround the pod. The costs of building and maintaining the pod are underwritten by advertising on two screens on the pod’s exterior.

Photo by Devin Lightner

My initial thought: this seems like advertising disguised with a public benefit that doesn’t seem all that valuable. Why clutter the streetscape with structures and electronic signage when a bike on its own is elegant and a bike rack is simple? (The company does have docks that do the same thing without the structure.)

Plus the signage on the top looks a lot like the graphic design of the smoke shops in the area — guess that space theme has some legs.

Photo by Devin Lightner



  1. Clutter the wonderful view of the endless stream of cars and trucks entering the tunnel bumper-to-bumper virtually nonstop from 9am to 8pm? How dare they impede that?

  2. Am I the only one who thinks it is sad that most people will read this article and think, “cool idea” instead of being appalled that a lock-box like this is necessary. Street crime is now so pervasive and normalized in NYC that we’ve forgotten that it should be OK to just lock your bike to a rack.

    The city did spend a lot of money installing bike racks as part of the subway resiliency program.

    • I hate to get in the way of your “NYC is suddenly bad and unsafe due to street crime narrative,” but I don’t think it’s EVER been safe to lock a bike of any value outside in NYC even for 15 min.

      There’s a reason that bike lock manufacturers have called their top of the line model “The New York Lock” for decades (Hint, it’s not because of the rampant bike theft in Scarsdale”

    • I’ve seen these fancy structures in Tokyo and Europe. I think ppl have romanticized NY as once being safer than Mayberry but I only park my $800 bike where I can see it (for 3 DECADES).

      It will be nice to finally be able to shop or dine w/o having to ONLY go in stores/restaurants that have a window I can easily check my bike through.

    • If you think that “street crime is now so pervasive and normalized in NYC that we’ve forgotten…” Well I’ve been in Tribeca for 45 years and remember a time when crime was indeed normalized. We are far beyond that now.

  3. More visual assault to the city!

  4. So bus and subway fare have gone up as well as LIRR and Metro-North.

    And the PA is spending money to improve things for bicyclists.


    • Right in the article, Lisa: “Funding for the bike parking pod installation was raised by Oonee, which also commissioned the mural designed in partnership with the BID to surround the pod. The costs of building and maintaining the pod are underwritten by advertising on two screens on the pod’s exterior.” :)

    • Wow, indeed. The PA doesn’t even run the subways, LIRR, or MNR, so this starts off by making zero sense.

      Even if they did, improving things for cyclists is a net positive for the city, and may even make riding the bus or rails more comfortable, if people switch modes. Either way, as J says, these are paid for by advertising, just like the bus shelters and kiosks.

  5. Hi there–this is the CEO of Oonee!

    I wanted to address some of the concerns that were raised in this post and in the comments:

    1. Whether protected secure, access controlled secure bike parking facilities are an essential part of a cycling ecosystem– this isn’t a new concept, it’s true in most cycling cities. While the concept isn’t new, New York has lagged far behind peer cities in North America and Europe in creating this infrastructure. The model we are using here is no different than bus shelters and newsstands. If you care about cycling, then secure parking is a must. If you consider cycling to be a viable form of transit, then free secure parking isn’t just valuable, it’s the holy grail.

    You can lock your bike to a rack yes– but this provides only limited protection against theft– and no protection against vandalism or weathering. Bicycle racks are Class II parking and really only suitable for 1-2 hour stays. Longer term parking (for the workday or overnight) should be in Class I facilities.

    You can read about the distinction in this TA report (which also specifically mentions our work)

    2. There is advertising yes– but this finances the full cost of maintaining upgraded plaza (the mural was part of the project) and keeps the facility free to use for cyclists and scooter riders. I will also point out that there is also advertising on this very site, presumably allowing it to remain free to readers. We’re taking the same approach.

    3. Our work has been endorsed by cycling advocates around the city including Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York and StreetsPac– and creating this class of infrastructure has been on our city’s to do list for two decades.

    4. We are a small Black & Brown based startup that is working to build these facilities across the region. Some of our facilities are the size of a bikeshare rack, others are located inside buildings.

    We would be happy to have a conversation with you about our project. Thanks so much for your time!

    • Very odd to connect the advertising on my tiny corner of the internet to a public streetscape!

      • Hi again, thanks sincerely for your engagement here!

        If you read my comments again, you will see that I’ve pointed out that advertising is commonly used to pay for services in both the physical space (bus shelters, bikeshare, newsstands, subways etc) as well as the online space (i.e. this very blog, social media etc).

        And yes, I do think it’s slightly ironic to label us a “advertisement disguised as a public benefit,” when there is more visual real estate on this blog dedicated to advertising than words. Like you, we have to pay the bills somehow. We don’t operate with any public subsidy at this location… and as others in the comment section have pointed out… these secure bike parking structures are quite common across the world. New York has been a laggard in this category for years, and we’ve unlocked a way to make this happen, for free to users and the public.

        • Everyone, whether they use the service you provide or not, has to look at your ads, so while I understand how advertising works, I see advertising on public land as a completely different model. I don’t like billboards on private land either. Also there are 15,000 posts on this site, so no, there are not more ads than words!

      • The commenter is pointing out that advertising is used to subsidise a variety of ‘free’ services. Seems a fair point to me.

    • While I can appreciate the desire to generate revenue the signage on top of this structure seems to be in violation of the NYC Zoning resolution for the district. I believe it is an M1 district which does not allow flashing signage. The signage is not allowed to interfere with the reasonable use and enjoyment of residents which seems to not be the case, as the sign flashes into multiple apartments 24hrs a day. There are also restrictions on the size of the sign based on the street frontage which this sign clearly does not comply with. I can’t imagine that it is necessary to have a flashing sign at all hours of the night. In addition distracting drivers with a giant flashing sign seems like a terrible idea at an intersection that is incredibly busy.

      To be clear I have already communicated this multiple times to the representative for our district with no acknowledgement or response.

      • Hi Concerned Citizen,

        We are compliant with all applicable regulations at this site, (its state property not local) and while the signs do not flash or move (animation is not allowed so as not to distract drivers)– we would be happy to have a conversation with you about dimming the screens during the evening hours. We ommitted a screen facing west to avoid adverse impacts on residences.

        It’s important to us that we are a good neighbor and we would be happy to work with you here. Please do feel free to reach out to me at

      • Your representative likely has bigger fish to fry rather than devote time to your frivolous and rather baseless concerns about “flashing” signage

    • I like the idea of a bike storage. But how do you keep thieves out of it if the app is free? Won’t anyone with a phone be able to access it and what’s inside?

      So Let’s call it more of a shelter from the elements for your bike. Less likely to get stolen?…maybe. But really for shelter. Which is fine, as a biker I get it. np here. And i don’t mind how you pay the bills either. Ads are everywhere.

      What’s struck me is the pettiness of your reply. Dude, it’s not that deep. There will always be ppl that compliment and those that criticize ..on any project. As a CEO you should step back and not get involved in the mud sling. It doesn’t look good. A well thought out, constructive and informative explanation is all we needed. No need to tear down TC or compare. Approach is everything. Who cares if you have ads that pay the bills. Citibike/Lyft does as well.

      My 2cents…. a little diplomacy goes a long way. You catch more bees with honey.

      • Hi Vale, I am sorry if my reply came across as petty or rude. I don’t believe that’s the tone I was going for here– I don’t think my goal was to “tear down” TC either– just pointing out that there are many systems that use an advertising driven model– I don’t believe that this is mud slinging, but I do apologize if it came across this way.

        Regarding the security features– each user has to be verified with an ID and facial recognition to match (as the author points out) and the interior is camera monitored. Thieves are generally disinclined to register on a platform where their ID and face are listed. We also provide insurance to the bicycles parked inside. Generally, outdoor bike rooms (class I parking) like this facility are considered to be far, far safer than parking outside on a rack.

        Thanks again.

    • I salute you Shabazz – well done for taking this type of project on that encourages cycling in the city and furthermore engaging here to explain the finer points of (free) advertising.

      Tribeca, you need to calm down.

      • Right? The pearl clutching here for an amenity that is in the middle of a car sewer. No one’s complaining about those!

        • Couldn’t agree more. Honestly baffling to see how outraged people can get about such a small change that provides a positive benefit.

        • But it’s just so negative. Why? This easily could have been spun into a way to get more people to bike and celebrate the growth of a local POC business in its early days. A little more research could have balanced this out.

    • I love the concept and it’s much needed all around the city. I ‘ve seen a different model of these pods in Jersey City by the same company. I have downloaded the app and registered (yes, you need to provide ID). Haven’t tried yet because there is no pod like this near my destinations but I will definitely keep the app on my phone. I hope more parking like this one will be installed in other neighborhoods as well (Meatpacking district, Financial district, Upper East Side near Guggenheim to name a few). Wish to grow!

    • Shabazz I love your work and the response you wrote here. I wish you huge success. We need this badly.

  6. Some of the snark might be warranted if the bike parking pod was on a prime piece of Tribeca sidewalk. But it’s halfway within the mouth of the tunnel entrance at the northeast corner of Canal and Hudson … beyond the corner actually. It adds color and utility and, yes, a bit of flash to a formerly forlorn spot.

    It’s spicing up a desolate area, not taking public money, and not impeding potential bike lanes (here’s looking at you, Pam). So what exactly is the problem?

    • For the record, I wrote 600 words about an amenity that I would guess NO ONE knew was there until this post went up. In fact, there has been very little coverage of Oonee overall, and I am sure they deserve more. And, only the last 80 words were my critique of more advertising on public property, NONE of which I like, including the horrible video screens on top of every beautiful wrought iron subway entrance in the neighborhood. I do not consider that commentary or that use of public space “pearl clutching” or “frivolous” (and I said nothing about it flashing since it does not). I think if we are holding ourselves up to how other bike-friendly cities do these things — and as a regular cyclist I wish we would — we could better consider the streetscape and the constant visual assault of video screens, even in already ugly places.

  7. They installed THREE bike parking pods in the entire city and you are outraged? Wait till you hear that there are also three million free parking spots for cars.

  8. Weird hill for the Tribeca Citizen to die on — opposing a truly valuable and accessible piece of infrastructure because it has an ad on it.

    Really hope you don’t discover what a public bus or subway station looks like.

  9. i’m shocked you can manage to find so many nits to pick here. god does our city need things of this sort. the amount of our public space dedicated to cars is truly grotesque and serves to make our city less pleasant for the vast majority of residents.

    awesome works shabazz and team! i wish our city were doing more to support yall. it’s been sad seeing how slow the trials of oonee have moved

  10. Great idea! We need secure bike parking throughout the city! This will decrease bike theft and increase bike usage. Very exciting.