NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Joe Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has resigned.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised Lhota in a statement.
“Joe Lhota had dedicated decades of his life to public service culminating in two tours of duty at the helm of the MTA. He stabilized the subway system, appointed a new leadership structure, and led with a steady hand during some of the agency’s most challenging moments,” Cuomo wrote. “In short, Joe demonstrated time and again why he was the right person for the job. I am deeply grateful for his service to the State of New York.”
Lhota thanked Cuomo and said he volunteered to serve as chairman in 2017 “with the sole purpose of halting the decline of service and stabilizing the system for my fellow New Yorkers.”
“The subway action plan was developed in my first month at the MTA and it has successfully arrested the subway’s decline,” Lhota said. “In September 2018 the number of total train delays fell to the lowest point since February 2016. There is still a long way to go to achieve the performance that New Yorkers demand and deserve.”
Lhota went on to thank the men and women of the MTA.
“Finally, anyone who knows me will have a keen understanding of the appreciation and admiration that I have for the men and women of the MTA,” Lhota said. “Next time you see a subway, bus, railroad or bridge/tunnel worker, please thank them for their service.”
Web Extra: CBS2’s Marcia Kramer Sits Down With MTA Chairman Joe Lhota
This is the latest in a series of departures following Cuomo’s re election, CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.
It’s normal for there to be turnover after an election, but as the governor plots his agenda for his third term, job No. 1 will be finding someone to run the MTA – someone who can pilot its long-term rehabilitation plan.
The news seemed to catch Mayor Bill de Blasio by surprise.
“I just heard myself. The bottom line here is there’s clearly a lot of other leaders at the MTA who can carry forward the work,” he said during his weekly radio show on WNYC.
His sentiments reflect what many transportation experts believe – that during his tenure at the agency, Lhota has put together a top flight team of managers who can run things until the governor picks a replacement, Kramer reported.
That replacement will have the Herculean task of finding the estimated $60 billion to fix the sprawling system of subways, buses and suburban railroad. Lhota recently said it will take a lot of revenue streams.
The MTA currently reports that weekday on-time performance during the month of October was 70 percent – up from 64 percent a year ago. There’s also a decline in major weekday incidents from 64 in October 2017 to 52 last month.
While Cuomo searches for a replacement, he named Vice Chairman Fernando Ferrer to run the agency, which won praise from the mayor.
“Freddy Ferrer is a very, very good public servant. I wish he had been mayor. I supported him when he ran back in 2005,” he said. “I think he would have been a good mayor, so I clearly think he will have the ability to keep the MTA running forward, he knows New York City like the back of his hand, he understands the lives of every day New Yorkers.”
Ferrer previously served in the New York City Council and was Bronx Borough President from 1987-2001. He won the Democratic nomination for mayor in 2005 but lost to Michael Bloomberg.
Lhota was never paid for running the MTA, because he kept his job as chief of staff at New York University Langone Health. The previous chair was paid $325,000, but sources tell CBS2 the next chairman will have to negotiate his or her own pay package.
Speaking of money, transit advocates say the governor’s big assignment is getting the Legislature to pass a funding package that will make the MTA’s modernization plan a reality.