Home MTA Politics Senate finally confirms Prendergast as MTA chief

Senate finally confirms Prendergast as MTA chief

by Benjamin Kabak

It’s been nearly six months since Joe Lhota resigned as MTA Chairman and CEO, and after waiting out a slow nomination process and an even slower confirmation process, the MTA finally has a new permanent leader. This evening, the New York State Senate voted to confirm Tom Prendergast as the Chairman and Chief Executive Office of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Prendergast, the former president of New York City Transit, had been serving as the interim executive director since Lhota stepped down to run for mayor on January 1, but the Senate waited until the final day of their legislative session to confirm the nomination.

“Tom Prendergast has a proven track record of leadership and transportation expertise, especially when it comes to the managing the vast transportation network of the MTA,” Governor Cuomo said. “As Interim Executive Director, Tom was vital to the recovery of the MTA after Superstorm Sandy and he will continue to play a crucial role in making the MTA more modern, efficient and storm ready. I look forward to Tom’s continued success in running the nation’s largest transportation system.”

Cuomo’s statement nearly undersells the point. Prendergast had, by many accounts, been responsible for the MTA’s immediate response to Sandy and had helped implement storm preparedness measures that minimized damage to the MTA’s rolling stock and infrastructure in the aftermath of the Hurricane Irene. He had fallen just short of the nomination in 2011, and as a career transit official with experience at the Chicago Transit Authority, the U.S. Department of Transportation, New York City Transit, the LIRR and a short tenure as CEO of Vancouver’s TransLink, comes highly recommended for the job.

After his confirmation, Prendergast issued a statement — almost too glowing — expressing his interest in the job and his praise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I am grateful that Governor Cuomo has entrusted me with the responsibility of leading the largest transportation agency in North America,” he said. “The MTA faces enormous challenges to continue improving service while cutting costs and rebuilding stronger after Superstorm Sandy. Leading the MTA through these challenges is critical to the lives of millions of New Yorkers and the future of the New York economy. Governor Cuomo has repeatedly demonstrated his strong support for the MTA, and I deeply appreciate this opportunity.”

For a few months, transit advocates have been awaiting Prendergast’s confirmation. Cuomo named Prendergast to the position in early April, but State Senators stalled. According to recente reports, the Senate Transportation Committee had failed to act over concerns surrounding the LIRR’s Penn Station future. Influential Long Island state senators were reportedly requesting assurances from Prendergast that LIRR service to Penn would not be impacted by post-East Side Access plans to bring Metro-North to Manhattan’s West Side.

With his confirmation, Prendergast becomes the next in a long line of officials to head up the MTA. Turnover has been rapid, but during his sessions with Senate committees, Prendergast vowed to stay on the job. When asked how long he planned to remain as CEO and Chair of the MTA, the candidate replied, “I’m not gonna run for Mayor of the City of New York.” This line was, of course, a clear jab at Lhota who is currently seeking the Republican spot on this November’s mayoral ballot.

After the hearings and subsequent Senate vote, Prendergast side-stepped any reports of a targeted delay in these hearings, and Long Island Senator Charles Fuschillo, chair of the Transportation Committee, denied them as well. “They wanted to make sure the candidate who is going to be in the job understands it and that I have an opportunity to hear their concerns,” Prendergast said in a brief press conference after the 9:20 p.m. vote.

For his part, Fuschillo issued perfunctory praise. “Mr. Prendergast’s extensive professional experience, both within the MTA and in other public and private sector transportation positions, will serve him well as he addresses the numerous issues and challenges facing the MTA,” he said.

Those issues and challenges include, as always, a shaky budget, an unsettled relationship with the Transport Workers Union Local 100, a new five-year capital campaign, and the ongoing efforts to rebuild and protect the system in he aftermath of last October’s hurricane. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Now, the MTA has its permanent head and, hopefully, a clear direction of the path forward.

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1 comment

Larry Littlefield June 21, 2013 - 9:44 am

Forget the TWU for a moment and focus on the LIRR.

Whose mafia is that? The Long Island Republicans? If so taking the LIRR on would be payback. Not the Long Island Republicans? Doing something to reduce the costs, inefficiency and graft in that organization could win them over.

The LIRR was been bad since it was in the private sector. Rockefeller promised to make it the finest railroad in the country. Read Gravy Train to see how that turned out.

Now the rest of the state is paying for a huge expansion of this network. The only thing standing in the way of a brighter transit future for Long Island is the unions, management, and NIMBYs who seem to control politics there.


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