Cuomo Also Calls For More Appointments On MTA Board To Give Him Full Control


ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — What’s old is new again at the MTA.

State lawmakers have confirmed Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s nomination of former New York City mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota as the next leader of the troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Lhota returns to the leadership post at the nation’s largest public transportation agency, where he served as chairman and CEO from October 2011 to December 2012.

He resigned for an unsuccessful run for New York City mayor as a Republican in 2013. He lost to current Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo nominated the 62-year-old Lhota as MTA chairman Wednesday and the Republican-controlled Senate approved the appointment late Wednesday night before adjourning for the summer.

Cuomo said Lhota’s salary will be $1 per year and he’ll delegate the CEO duties to a permanent executive director.

The governor says Lhota will continue serving as senior vice president, vice dean and chief of staff at Manhattan-based NYU Langone Medical Center.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Lhota’s return comes amid a major mess on the subway system. On Thursday alone, morning rush problems hit the No. 1, 2 and 3 trains, while during the evening rush, a rail condition slowed service on the E, F, G, and M trains.

And once people stuff their way into cars, they have to struggle not to get their bags stuck.

“So people are very frustrated,” said subway rider Pamela Leed. “We’re waiting and waiting and waiting.”

The MTA is promising a “top to bottom review” of how it handles subway delays.

As to Lhota, some commuters seem to approve of the choice.

“I think it’s great, he knew what he was doing before and he was doing a great job,” subway rider, Pedro, said. “You need somebody with experience, and Lhota is the man with the experience.”

Lhota helped guide the MTA after the damage of Superstorm Sandy, and as he takes the chairman job he admits “it’s a challenging time for the MTA,” 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

“He fixed a lot of things, I’m counting on him cause I know he’s going to do great,” Pedro said.

But others think Cuomo should have found some new blood.

“Lhota has a good understanding of the subway system but we need somebody new and fresh,” one man said.

In reappointing Lhota return but announcing there would be a separate executive director, Cuomo is essentially splitting the chairman and CEO jobs that were combined in 2009. The theory then was that the MTA needed a leader who was both powerful and accountable.

“He doesn’t seem to have a real rationale for splitting it up again other than he wanted Lhota to be the chairperson,” said Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. “Lhota already has a full time hospital job. He doesn’t seem to want to come back and run the MTA again.”

Lhota left the MTA to run for mayor on the Republican ticket, and was trounced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in the general election.

The mayor and the governor have clashed over MTA issues, but de Blasio is making nice, saying, “I commend the governor (appointing Lhota) and I pledge my administration’s cooperation.”

Lhota takes office with a lot of good will, but also high expectations that he will get a handle on the subway system mess quick.

He said he supports overnight shutdowns of subway lines as a painful, but necessary way to accelerate repairs. He has also suggested a small hike in the MTA sales tax to raise revenue.

Meanwhile, Cuomo also wants to appoint more board members to place more power in hands of the state.

“Someone has to be in control of the organization,” Cuomo said.

But while he wants more power, Cuomo also wants the city to kick in more money, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“There’s no reason why New York State should be spending double for the MTA, contributing double what New York City is,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked Thursday about Cuomo’s last-minute attempt to increase the number of state-appointed board members from six to eight, which would give Cuomo absolute control of the 14-member board.

“He already has power. He names the head of the MTA. He has a working majority on that board. Everyone knows,” de Blasio said. “Remember during the snowstorm years ago, when he decided personally to shut down the train system?”

On WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” Thursday morning, de Blasio said there is no one who has the illusion that anyone is running the MTA but Cuomo.

As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, de Blasio also said Cuomo gets the blame for the poor service with six of the appointments to the MTA board already under his control.

“It’s also clear he’s wrong, and he can’t count,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said further that he would welcome complete control.

“I will be accountable for the MTA if you give me control to match the responsibility,” he said.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)