Home MTA Politics Transit-raider and former Gov. Paterson named to MTA Board

Transit-raider and former Gov. Paterson named to MTA Board

by Benjamin Kabak

The New York State Governor who oversaw the most expansive cuts and constant fare hikes in recent subway history has been nominated to the MTA Board by his successor in Albany. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named former state executive David Paterson to fill the board seat vacated by the departure of Nancy Shevell. Paterson could serve in this unpaid role for as many as six years.

“Governor Paterson has dedicated his life to working for the people of this state and I am excited that he will continue his public service at the MTA,” Cuomo said today in a statement. “Governor Paterson’s energy, expertise, and experience will benefit the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the MTA every day. I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA and improve service for New Yorkers.”

MTA officials echoed Cuomo’s praise. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota issued a statement:

“I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nomination of former Governor David Paterson to the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. I have known the former Governor for 35 years and look forward to the opportunity to work with him again. He has long shared the Governor’s commitment to our mission of providing safe, efficient and effective transportation to more than 8.5 million riders every day. Once confirmed by the Senate, former Governor Paterson will bring a unique and practical perspective, particularly with respect to issues affecting minority communities and disabled New Yorkers. I look forward to former Governor Paterson bringing to our board deliberations the charm, wit and compassion he has shown throughout his public life.”

According to Pete Donohue of the Daily News, who first broke news of the appointment this morning, Cuomo’s desire to strengthen race relations may have played a role in this appointment as Paterson does not have much of a traditional transit background. Shevell, on the other hand, had worked for nearly 30 years in the trucking industry.

The former governor vowed to “take tough stands” on the MTA Board, but I still have to wonder about the wisdom of this pick. After naming Jay Walder to head the MTA, Paterson had a very hands-off approach to transit issues. The New York native repeatedly used his executive budgeting powers to reallocate supposedly dedicated MTA funds to other state projects, and he barely raised a finger when the MTA had to cut service and raise fares in 2010.

Yet, despite Paterson’s record, even Transportation Alternatives seems prepared to offer up their praise. “With another planned fare hike looming in January 2013, Paterson’s experience as a governor and state senator will prove critical to working with Albany lawmakers to find new funding for our transit system, sparing overburdened New Yorkers yet another fare hike. Paterson knows well that straphangers can’t handle another hit to their wallets—as Governor, he saw New Yorkers endure back to back fare hikes and reap service cuts in return. He also created new funding for our transit system. If anyone knows New Yorkers are tired of paying more for less and how to find fairer ways to invest in transit, it’s David Paterson,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement.

While it’s true that Paterson was head of the state during the implementation of the payroll tax, his path there left him with few options. He didn’t have the political respect to push through bridge tolls, and he settled for the measure the legislature was willing to adopt. Was he forward-thinking or simply bowing to the winds of pressure Albany? Paterson’s record suggests an outlook not nearly as rosy as Trans Alt puts forward.

His appointment will have to go through the New York State Senate for confirmation, but such a vote is generally viewed as a mere formality.

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BrooklynBus April 23, 2012 - 1:34 pm

It’s a little unfair to condemn him before he has even started. However, I would have wished someone finally be appointed who does know something about transportation. I don’t consider trucking experience like Shevell had to be at all relevant. I used to attend Board meetings when James Simpson was on the Board. He was the head of a trucking company and from the questions he would ask and statements he would make, I was not at all impressed with his relevant transportation knowledge.

At least Paterson is intelligent. Hopefully he is a quick learner and will be willing to challenge the MTA by asking intelligent questions rather than merely accepting everything he is told. As Governor, he had other obligations to fill. As an MTA Board Member, transportation shoud be his only concern. Hopefully, his appointment will not be a disappointment.

Streetsblog New York City » On MTA Board, David Paterson Could Be a Force for Transit Funding April 23, 2012 - 1:34 pm

[…] the other hand, Ben Kabak notes that Paterson repeatedly raided dedicated transit funds to help close the state’s budget […]

lawhawk April 23, 2012 - 1:57 pm

Quick correction Ben:

The New York State Governor who oversaw the most expansive cuts and constant fare hikes in recent subway history has been nominated by his predecessor successor to the MTA Board. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named former state executive David Paterson to fill the board seat vacated by the departure of Nancy Shevell.

As to the substantive points of your post – agreed. Paterson was a poor choice, and even Paterson admits he has no transit-related experience. It’s a political decision, not one that helps get the MTA on sound fiscal footing.

Al D April 23, 2012 - 3:00 pm

This is just more business as usual in NYS, and another reason why the city needs to wrest control of its subways and buses from the state.

UESider April 23, 2012 - 8:19 pm

So, Paterson happened to be at the helm when rising costs intersected with falling revenues propmting the increase in fares and simultaneous cuts to service

Anyone else would have overseen the same events. We’ve been underpaying for years, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it finally came down in ’08-’11/2. We could just as easily be blaming Spitzer, had he not been sleeping with hookers.

May as well blame Obama for unemployment. As the joke goes, you cant blame Ronald when you get a bad Big Mac. He had nothing to do with it.

Sorry to stick up for Paterson, the only thing I miss about his term were the SNL skits!

Andrew April 23, 2012 - 10:45 pm


Paterson at least attempted to minimize the damage. He asked Richard Ravitch to try to find a solution (only half of which was implemented, over Ravitch’s objections).

He wasn’t the best governor the transit system has seen, but he was certainly better than his successor has been.

Questioning Paterson’s transit credentials :: Second Ave. Sagas April 24, 2012 - 12:49 pm

[…] Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that he is nominating his predecessor in Albany to an open seat on the MTA Board, I was a dissenting voice amidst a chorus of cheers. With advocacy […]

Once more unto the Paterson breach :: Second Ave. Sagas May 25, 2013 - 1:43 pm

[…] to the MTA. I realize I’ve already questioned his credentials, but with the advocacy groups praising his appointment, someone has to cast a critical eye on this move. I firmly believe it was not a wise one for the […]


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