Home Asides Still no replacement 79 days after Lhota’s departure

Still no replacement 79 days after Lhota’s departure

by Benjamin Kabak

It took the Cardinals in the Vatican two days to pick a new pope. It’s been 79 days and counting since Gov. Andrew Cuomo last had a permanent MTA Chairman and CEO. Joe Lhota, the GOP’s leading fundraiser in the race for mayor and, as of last Friday, still a straphanger on the 42nd Street shuttle, left his role as the agency’s CEO and Chairman as 2012 melted into 2013, and in the meantime, there’s been absolute silence from the governor’s office.

Earlier this week, DNA Info’s Jill Colvin canvassed the usual suspects as she assessed the MTA vacancy. The agency is in very good interim hands right now with Tom Prendergast serving as the MTA’s operational head and Fernando Ferrer as temporary Board chairman, but the lack of action from Albany on a key political appointee is concerning to transit advocates. “They have other fish to fry and this is not at the top of their to-do basket,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said. “It can go on too long. I don’t think it’s at that point yet, but I wish it were further along than I sense it is.”

When Jay Walder left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly convened a search committee to identify the best replacement, but no such body has been put together this time around. Cuomo, whose name has been at the forefront of the MTA’s post-Sandy recovery efforts, hasn’t shown much willingness to engage in transit policy and politics, but Ferrer, who doesn’t want the permanent job, believes something will happen soon. “I know he’s working on this,” he said. “That answer satisfies me completely. And I expect a move here fairly soon.” Meanwhile, the agency is in a “wait-and-see” mode as the days tick away.

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D.R. Graham March 20, 2013 - 12:45 pm

It’s a strategic move not hiring a chairperson right now. The last time there was a need for a hire the union still had a contract. Now that there is no contract hiring a chairperson means negotiating a new contract with the TWU. Cuomo being at the top of his popularity would love to avoid taking a position regarding his stance with most of the unions and most of them usually watch what happens with the TWU. The longer you go without a hire, the longer you go without appearing to be either a union buster or over appeasing.

Chris C March 20, 2013 - 7:19 pm

But the longer he leaves it the greater the risk that an issue (no matter how minor) will arise that will cause the Gov a major headache / press & public backlash.

with a permanent Chair in place the Gov can (still) take the credit for the good / popular things (like the reopening of the ‘old’ SF station) but can soon deflect the blame when things go wrong (e.g. disruption when Sandy repairs get underway) by saying “that’s a decision for the Chair” etc

D.R. Graham March 20, 2013 - 11:54 pm

The MTA is still and will always be Albany’s shoe bottom. No matter whether someone is at the top or not the governor will blame the MTA for all wrongs while taking credit for all things that go right. Luckily for Cuomo the agency has been on a role so that leaves more to take credit for and less to blame. The risk of not looking like a conventional democrat downstate and risk looking like a true liberal upstate is more of the risk he’s concerned about with sky high ratings. Union negotiating either way is the real risk.

Jonathan March 20, 2013 - 1:19 pm

Maybe that Benedict guy can be enticed out of retirement.

Bolwerk March 20, 2013 - 1:43 pm

He would probably be better suited for heading the NYPD. I mean, assuming we want another fascist around.

Older and Wiser March 20, 2013 - 4:47 pm

Actually, Prendergast might be the right choice to negotiate with the TWU.

Older and Wiser March 20, 2013 - 4:50 pm

What I mean by that is Tom’s a can do guy, a go to guy. And with a Dwight D. Eisenhower persona – very strong, but amiable. Nobody doesn’t like him.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 7:15 pm

Maybe Bloomberg can do it. I mean, after he retires from his mayoral position.

Jackson d March 21, 2013 - 2:09 am

Who needs a MTA chairman anyways? Useless position.


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