MY WORK HERE IS DONE
Lhota exits & touts big rail improvements - even as riders cry: What the F train!
Subway trains are slow, buses crawl in traffic — and the agency that oversees New Yorkers’ often-miserable commutes is about to undergo a change in leadership.
MTA chairman Joe Lhota resigned Friday after 17 months on the job, saying plans he put in place have “successfully arrested the subway’s decline” while acknowledging that the system still has vast room for improvement.
Lhota’s departure comes as Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials presented data showing a second consecutive month of improved subway service.
In his parting statement, Lhota claimed some credit for the improvement — and admitted things need to get better.
“There is still a long way to go to achieve the performance that New Yorkers demand and deserve,” he said.
Fernando Ferrer, the MTA board’s vice chairman and former Bronx borough president, will serve as acting chairman until the state Senate confirms Gov. Cuomo’s choice to replace Lhota. Cuomo said that will likely happen in January.
Though it’s unclear who Cuomo might pick to replace the agency, two current top MTA executives — its president, Patrick Foye, and its managing director, Veronique Hakim — were finalists for the chairman job before Lhota was hired last year.
Hakim is a lawyer and a former chief of NJ Transit, and Foye is a former executive director of the Port Authority.
Lhota, 64, of Brooklyn, earned accolades as the MTA’s full-time chairman from January to December 2012, when he led the system through the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy.
He started his second stint at the agency in June 2017, when the subway seemed like it had hit rock bottom as part of commuters’ “Summer of Hell.”
This time around, Lhota was a part-time chairman. He held on to his executive post at NYU Langone Health. He also took a $160,000 gig on the board of Madison Square Garden — which drew criticism, as the MTA and state government must negotiate with MSG over issues related to Penn Station, which sits beneath the arena.
Because he was a parttimer during his second tour as MTA chairman, Lhota created an office for a team of top executives — including Foye, Hakim and construction chief Janno Lieber — to oversee the MTA’s dayto-day operations.
He oversaw the hiring of Andy Byford as president of NYC Transit, which runs the city’s subways, buses and paratransit services. Byford — a U.K. native who had overseen transit systems in London, Australia and Toronto before coming to New York — is pushing a near $40 billion, 10-year transit overhaul plan known as Fast Forward.
Lhota also chose new chiefs for the Long Island Rail Road, the Metro-North Railroad, a new MTA general counsel, and a new chief safety officer.
“Together, they work every second of every day to further stabilize and enhance the MTA for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” Lhota said.
It’s unclear when Lhota decided to leave the agency. Asked at last month’s MTA board meeting how long he’d stay, Lhota responded that his official six-year term ended June 10, 2021.
Joe Lhota conceded that the subways have a long way to go, but said he’s improved the system enough that he can quit as MTA boss.
KEVIN C DOWNS