NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city’s charismatic subway chief, the man credited with engineering a subway service revival, has abruptly called it quits, ending a two-year run marked by clashes with the governor and repeated threats to resign.
Transit Authority President Andy Byford became such a rock star here that his legion of fans called him “Train Daddy” and posted stickers with his picture.
But the lesson of his tenure at the controls is that in New York there is room for only one rock star and his name is Andrew Cuomo.
“He did the job for two years. You know, nobody does these jobs for a lifetime,” Cuomo told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer on Thursday, not long after Byford resigned.
WEB EXTRA: Read Byford’s resignation letter (pdf)
As he indicated in his resignation letter, Byford quit because he resented having his job scaled back as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reorganization plan, but he also clashed repeatedly with Gov. Cuomo and repeatedly threatened to resign.
Last October, he walked back a resignation letter in which he voiced frustration with the governor’s role at the MTA.
“This is my life’s ambition, to do this job and I knew it would come with challenges,” Byford said.
It turns out, sources said, the major challenge was coping with the state’s 800-pound gorilla as Cuomo pushed the agency to find the most up-to-date technology for fixing the system with the least amount of rider inconvenience. Remember, the governor did veto Byford’s plan for fixing the “L” train in favor of his own.
The two men reportedly didn’t speak for four months last year.
On Thursday, Kramer asked governor, “Andy Byford was globally recognized as the man who literally helped turn the MTA and the transit system around. Why couldn’t you keep him?”
“Sometimes, Marcia, people tell you the truth,” Cuomo responded. “He said the transformation plan that the MTA is going through centralized certain functions.”
Kramer then said, “He told people, his friends, that he couldn’t get along with you and your administration and that he felt marginalized by you and the transformation process.”
“I don’t think there’s any truth to the fact he couldn’t get along with me, but his point is well taken that the transformation of the MTA did consolidate construction. But It does change his job,” Cuomo said.
“It seems like there was a constant threat of ‘I’m gonna go.’ How did you feel about that?” Kramer asked.
“I’ve always had fine relations with him,” Cuomo said.
“But you brought him in to fix the system and he constantly threatened to leave. How did you feel about that?” Kramer asked.
“I felt fine. I deal with all sorts of situations in my life and, frankly, they don’t get a rise out of me anymore, Marcia,” Cuomo said.
Byford will stay on the job until Feb. 21. Friends told CBS his next stop may be a return to London, where, after his stint in New York, he might be in line for the top job at the London Underground.
By the way, he is said to get along famously with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.