NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Former transit boss Andy Byford spoke out for the very first time Friday about the “forces” that made his dream job “intolerable” and why he had no choice but to quit.
To use a transit analogy, Byford fled the MTA because he felt like he had been tied to the tracks while a train driven by Andrew Cuomo cut his legs off, Kramer reported.
“Towards the end of my tenure, I felt that the job had become somewhat intolerable,” said Byford.
“Progressively, I felt myself excluded from meetings that were absolutely about the day-to-day running of New York City transit,” he said. “There were situations where people who worked for me, and even people who worked for people who worked for me, so two levels down, were being summoned to be given directions about how the subway or the bus system – mainly the subway – should be run.”
The directions, Byford said, were handed out at the governor’s office.
“I needed to be left to run the system,” Byford said. “I found myself being undermined if I’m honest.”
“Were you being undermined by the governor?” Kramer asked.
“To a large extent,” he said.
After Byford became a crowd favorite, with riders christening him “Train Daddy,” the governor masterminded an MTA transformation that reduced Byford’s role.
“It got to a point where it was obvious that even the dumbed-down role, the reduced role that I found myself in, even that I was not going to be allowed to get on with what needed to be done,” Byford said. “It’s the governor’s prerogative to see whomever he wants, I get that, but I just would not accept the fact that my people were being yelled at, they were being given direction and I was deliberately excluded from those meetings. That’s just not right.
“To me, it’s actually dangerous, also, that people who are not professionally qualified should give direction on operational matters,” he added.
“So you didn’t think that the governor was acting properly?” Kramer asked.
“I had to make to my mind up, as a person with very strong principles, can I accept… a situation where I’m in a safety-critical role and the people are being given direction on operational matters behind my back.”
At a late-afternoon press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo fired back, arguing that the guy he brought in to fix the subways was too low on the MTA management totem pole for him to work with.
“I didn’t work with Andy Byford. I worked with Pat Foye, I worked with Ronnie Hakim, I worked with his higher-ups, and he didn’t run the system. The board runs the systems,” Cuomo said.
While there have been rumors of Byford being considered for a role running the NJ Transit system, Marcia Kramer says Byford said it might be a psychic victory to go across the river to New Jersey, turn things around and show New York what it lost.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” Byford said.
“Is it a tantalizing idea?” Kramer asked.
“NJT I know has challenges, I’m familiar with them. There would be, of course, the sanctification of just being over the river and affecting a turn-around,” Byford said.
Byford says so far, NJ Transit has not called him to offer the job.
As for other political ambitions in the Tri-State Area – maybe a run for mayor – Byford told Kramer he’s had enough politics for now.
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