By Marcia Kramer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With congestion pricing ready to roll out and fund transit improvements, Gov. Kathy Hochul says she will free the MTA of political influences.

Five current board members were appointed by former governor Andrew Cuomo, but their terms end with his resignation.

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Hochul must now restock the board with her own appointees.

The MTA is getting a new conductor, but Hochul says she doesn’t want to drive the train, she just wants to make sure it stays on the track.

“The MTA is going to be far more liberated,” she said. “But I’m also not going to be hamstringing people who feel that their creativity is suppressed and their ideas are suppressed … What I’m choosing to do is empower people, not micromanage.”

It’s a dramatic departure from her predecessor, who often upset the apple cart, micromanaging to the point where he forced highly regarded transit president Andy Byford to quit, telling CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer, in so many words, that he felt he had been tied to the tracks while a train driven by Cuomo cut off his legs.

One of Hochul’s key tasks is to name her own appointees to the MTA board.

“I will not be filling positions with political allies,” Hochul said.

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A spokesman told CBS2 Hochul is “committed to picking members who are qualified, understand what commuters need and will uphold transparency and accountability.”

Lisa Daglian, of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, hopes Hochul also expands the number of voting board members to include commuter representatives.

“The MTA needs to rebuild its system, it needs to rebuild its ridership, and it needs to rebuild trust to get people to come back and to once again flourish and support the economy of our region,” Daglian said.

But to rebuild, the MTA needs the $15 billion from congestion pricing, charging fees to enter the Central Business District below 60th Street.

Public Meetings On Congestion Pricing Plan Begin In September

After years of delay by the Trump administration, the agency is finally embarking on a 16-month environmental assessment.

The first step is a series of 13 virtual public hearings from Sept. 23 to Oct. 13 so people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut can sound off on issues like pollution and the value of getting people out of their cars and into mass transit.

With the environmental assessment now under way, drivers could conceivably start paying to drive into Manhattan’s Central Business District within two years.

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New MTA board appointees must also be approved by the state Senate.

Marcia Kramer