Two months later, Albany silent on Lhota’s replacement


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.

Categories : MTA Politics

11 Responses to “Two months later, Albany silent on Lhota’s replacement”

  1. Mad Park says:

    Transit marginalised again (or still)?

  2. Epson45 says:

    forget hiring the MTA Chairman… that person will retire in a year and will raise the fare and tolls again. its a pattern!

  3. Alex C says:

    Pretty depressing to see our governor show such complete disdain for public transit. And our city politicians, too.

    • Nathanael says:

      Cuomo was a mistake. We should have elected one of the other candidates. Practically anyone except the Republican would have done better. Personally, I think the prostitute was the best candidate.

  4. David Brown says:

    I was reading the New York Times (Extremely rare for me to do so because I dislike it), to get information about proposals for Transportation and from what I read, I now understand why Lhota was not invited…. He is someone who actually understands transit, and thus could have come up with real ideas instead of talking about biking and City takeovers of transit (Does anyone really think that is happening?), and that is not what the TWU and politicians want, which is the Status Quo on Transit (Except more pay raises for the TWU). I can get more information from Ben about what is important than these “Forums.”

  5. Someone says:

    Albany still hasn’t appointed a new chairman? Shame on them. I don’t think they give a shit about the MTA.

    If the MTA was privatised, they wouldn’t have such a hard time finding a new chairman. But then again, that would cause even larger fare hikes and more service cuts.

    • Nathanael says:

      Does Albany give a shit about ANYTHING? At ALL? Other than lining their own pockets? Is there any evidence that Cuomo or Silver or whatever asshat is running the State Senate this week care about ANYTHING?

  6. Andrew Smith says:

    Question for someone who studied poly sci in college:

    Why do democracies always have electorates vote for wide-sweeping executives (president, governor, mayor) that control a bunch of different things rather than directly electing individuals to run important public agencies (fire, police, transit)?

    Under the current system, most voters will cast their vote on how the executive performs on the one or two issues they care about most and basically ignore incompetence elsewhere. If each important government function were separated, it would seem that voters could assure excellence in each by just electing new people to head each division until they found someone truly excellent.

    But I’m guessing it doesn’t work out that way in practice or someone would do things that way.

    • Nathanael says:

      Because if 90% of the population don’t care about (for instance) police, and you have a direct election for police chief, the 10% who care get outnumbered by the 90% who don’t, and the winner is whoever has the most name recognition or gets endorsements from the most celebrities or is the best connected.

      With “general” offices like Mayor, most voters at least make some attempt to analyze whether the candidate is any good. By contrast, what’s the last time you paid any attention to a county clerk or state supreme court election?

    • Nathanael says:

      And for what it’s worth, Cuomo sucks on many many issues (notably FRACKING, which he is still trying to allow, and on the insane property tax cap, which will strangle upstate cities), not just on transit.

      It’s not a case of “he’s good on some things but not on this”. When we elect someone decent, they’re frequently decent on most things. When we elect someone who sucks, they frequently suck on most things. We might as well elect a single leader.

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