Home Transit Labor Labor lawyer replaces Seabrook on MTA Board

Labor lawyer replaces Seabrook on MTA Board

by Benjamin Kabak

Norman Seabrook, head of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association and one of the MTA Board’s most vocal pro-labor advocates, has not bee reappointed to his position. Instead, Gov. David Paterson, in the waning days of his time in Albany, Charles G. Moerdler, a partner the lawfirm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan with no transportation background and extensive real estate experience to the board. It is a move that seemingly speaks volumes of the short-term future of the MTA’s relationship with labor.

To get a sense of this story, let’s start with some testimony Jay Walder to the New York State Assembly. The MTA CEO and Chair came to talk about his relationship with labor unions, and it seems as though things might grow contentious soon. As Transportation Nation’s Jim O’Grady reported, “Walder says unions have to agree to freeze their wages–or straphangers will have to pay more.”

To me, a few weeks ago, Walder confirmed that the MTA will try to keep labor spending steady. On the other hand, the unions will be pushing for higher wages or higher benefits. To maintain a net-zero in the labor spending column, the authority will have to institute more layoffs or dig in against its workers. In any event, it will be a tough negotiation.

Enter Norman Seabrook. His appointment to the board expired this past summer, and for the last few months, he was a holdover board member. WPIX’s Greg Mocker — yes, that Greg Mocker — caught up with Seabrook and Gov. David Paterson today. The video is available here, and in it, Seabrook talks about his departure.

The outgoing MTA Board member seems to believe his own politics played a roll in this. “It could have been for my endorsements of another candidate. It could have been because I wasn’t a yes man,” he said, later critiquing the board. “They will continue to vote yes on fare increases,” he said. “They will continue to yes on service reductions. They will continue to vote yes on layoffs. They will continue to vote yes on anything that is put in front of them.”

Gov. Paterson, who said he won’t “get into conversations about particular appointees,” talked about what he wants in an MTA board member. “We’re looking for people who will make the tough choices,” he said, “and even though they may not be popular, they will hopefully be the ones that will spare the public authority as we are trying to spare the state from going into insolvency.”

So just who is Charles Moerdler? The veteran lawyer has extensive public service on his resume. He currently serves on both the New York City Housing Development Corporation and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. Throughout his professional career, he has “represented many of New York’s leading real estate developers and owners, as well as real estate trade organizations.” He has also served as the lead negotiator for municipal unions, including the United Federation of Teachers and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. In other words, he’s a labor guy replacing a labor guy but with a different focus.

Whereas Seabrook is the president of a union, Moerdler, as Pete Donohue points out in the Daily News, is the guy who can lean on his extensive contract negotiating experience as the TWU’s pact comes due. With experience serving on state authorities, he can recognize what the MTA needs to do to survive and knows what the unions will be after. These upcoming negotiations could get quite interesting indeed.

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Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines December 10, 2010 - 8:57 am

[…] New MTA Board Member Brings Experience in Real Estate and Negotiating, But Not Transpo (Ben Kabak) […]

R Hamilton December 10, 2010 - 9:24 am

Charles G. Moerdler is a friend of the Paterson clan and a tool of the permanent establishment that has buried the MTA and riders under a mountain of debt while lavishing generous benefit packages on the favored princes of labor. He is neither a friend of the TWU or management. His appointment has to be a disappointment to anyone who cares about the future of public transit in New York City. He should not be on the MTA board.

jon December 10, 2010 - 9:35 am

Ben, do you know if David Patterson cleared this appointment with Andrew Cuomo?
If not, this move takes a lot of chutzpah. Governor Patterson has 3 weeks left in office.

BrooklynBus December 10, 2010 - 9:56 am

So the story is speak out for the riders and against service cuts and fare increases and just hint that the MTA could be more efficient than it currently is, which everyone knows is true, and you won’t be reappointed to the Board. Now let that be a lesson to any other Board member who has similar thoughts.

Just what we need, another person on the Board with no transportation experience. Apparently in NYC and NYS, experience is no longer a needed qualification for the job. (other example new schools chancellor.) Political cronyism just continues and the public be damned.

Ben, I notice that you linked a critical article to Mocker’s name, but you wouldn’t link the article where he exposed the hiring of Walder’s so-called efficiency expert for $200,000 a year. I am still anxiously awaiting to read about all the efficiencies she is implementing.

JoshKarpoff December 10, 2010 - 10:55 am

Neither DASNY or NYCHDC are pinnacles of efficiency, so I don’t see any big improvements coming our way from this guy.

Subutay Musluoglu December 10, 2010 - 1:52 pm

Mr. Seabrook may have been a voice for labor, but his lack of knowledge on transportation issues clearly showed during board meetings. At times it was apparent by the kinds of questions he would ask that he lacked even a basic grasp of the material in front of him. He’s not the only one – there are several others on the board who just simply have no business being there. Personally, I do not think that you have to be an accomplished expert in urban transportation to be on the board. While it would be helpful, I think it’s more important that there is some relevant experience. Real estate and finance are OK as long as the individual is cognizant that he or she is responsible for moving people and not just dollar signs. Lawyers, well there already everywhere, aren’t they? An architecture/engineering/ construction background would be very helpful. Donna Fresca and Mitch Pally are good models of intelligent board members are are visibly engaged and show genuine concern. I also think that the time has long past for the non-voting members to have a vote. It’s painfully ironic how the rider’s representative and labor represntative are the board members who cannot vote.

The trains are late but by how much? :: Second Ave. Sagas May 24, 2011 - 1:28 am

[…] of the board members were not pleased to hear this news. The recently-appointed Charles Moerdler, who has become a vocal member of the MTA oversight body not afraid to ask tough questions, […]


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