After 102 days without a permanent agency head in place, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has finally settled a new MTA CEO and Chairman, and he didn’t have to look far to do it. Cuomo announced this morning that Tom Prendergast, the current New York City Transit President and interim MTA Executive Director, is his choice to lead the agency.
“Tom Prendergast is a consummate public transit leader who is the ideal candidate to oversee the nation’s largest transportation system,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The MTA plays a vital role in New York’s economy and the daily lives of the millions of commuters who use its services. Tom has vast experience in infrastructure and transportation and has spent years managing commuter railroads as well as New York City’s subways and buses. From the track bed to the budget to modernizing our system for the 21st Century, I can’t imagine anyone having a better understanding of how the region’s vast system operates and the challenges that it faces.”
Prendergast, a Chicago native with an engineering background, first arrived in New York in 1982 as the Assistant Director of System Safety. In 1987, he became the General Manager of Staten Island, and in 1989 was promoted to Chief Electrical Officer. He served as Senior VP for Subways in the early 1990s and headed up the LIRR for six years. He spent a few years in the early 2000s in the private sector and headed up TransLink in Vancouver for two years before returning to New York in 2009 to serve as Transit’s president. In other words, unless pushed out for political reasons, he’s likely to stick around for a bit longer than his predecessors have. (Though perhaps the MTA CEO/Chair position is more like the Defense Against the Dark Arts professorship than we’d like to admit, as one of my Twitter followers noted.)
“It is an incredible honor to be nominated to lead the largest transportation network in North America, and to work with Governor Cuomo and his administration on the many challenges facing the MTA,” Prendergast said. “The MTA will improve the customer experience, operate more efficiently and build for the future. And we will aggressively rebuild smarter and better in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.”
Prendergast’s nomination will face State Senate approval, but that is likely to be a formality. In the near term, he’ll have to continue to address the MTA’s needs as it rebuilds and recovers from the damage inflicted by Sandy. In the long term, the TWU is still without a contract and the next five-year capital campaign needs to be developed and defended.