MY WORK HERE IS DONE

Lhota ex­its & touts big rail im­prove­ments - even as rid­ers cry: What the F train!

New York Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN RIVOLI AND JIL­LIAN JOR­GENSEN

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.

DEB­BIE EGAN-CHIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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

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