Two months later, Albany silent on Lhota’s replacementBy
Later tonight, the various mayoral candidates bumbling their ways to an election later this year will meet tonight at the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies for a panel on transit issues. Co-hosted by the TWU, the panel lineup is actually intriguing because no one invited Joe Lhota to speak. A GOP frontrunner in the mayoral race and the one-time MTA head hadn’t heard about the panel until Tuesday night when another candidate mentioned it to him. It seems strange to leave out the former MTA Chairman and CEO from the panel.
Leaving out transit, though, is nothing new in political circles, and speaking of Lhota, his absence atop the MTA still looms large. It’s been two months since he announced his intentions to step down, and there has been absolutely no sign of action on a replacement from Albany. The MTA is operating with an interim chairman who doesn’t want the position on any sort of full-time basis and an interim executive director also tasked with overseeing New York City Transit. Meanwhile, the TWU is still operating without a contract; the next five-year capital plan will soon need a champion; the Sandy recovery effort is attempting to move forward; and the MetroCard replacement project is stuck.
So what’s Albany’s response to this? As Jim O’Grady as Transportation Nation wrote today, absolutely nothing:
Two months have passed since now-mayoral candidate Joe Lhota resigned as chairman and CEO of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. So what do we know about his replacement, the man or woman who will face a raft of problems, once that person is chosen by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to lead the nation’s largest transit agencies? “Nothing, nada, zip, zero,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “I haven’t heard.”
Other transportation advocates say the same. At one time, those advocates would have known by now what was happening. That time was September 2011, two months after Lhota’s predecessor, Jay Walder, resigned from the NY MTA’s top spot. A search committee made up of advocates and governmental veterans was, by the end of those two months, wrapping up interviews for Walder’s replacement. The committee recommended Lhota, whom Cuomo named head of the NY MTA in October of 2011. Three months later, the state senate confirmed him in the post…
But this time around, there is little urgency in the search for his replacement. The governor has not courted fanfare in announcing the formation of a search committee, as he did before. Instead, a Cuomo official blamed distractions from Sandy and an Albany budget fight for the fact that “there will be no announcement soon” about a new transit chief. Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing would only add that, “The administration continues to actively search for a new chairman.”
It’s more of the same from Cuomo who hasn’t done anything to prioritize transit during his tenure. The MTA needs a strong leader with some permanence behind the position, and right now, facing myriad challenges, New York City’s transportation lifeline has been cast somewhat adrift. The state is failing the city right now, and it doesn’t sound as though a resolution is in sight.