Cuomo Recommends Foye for Top Port Authority Post

Governor Andrew Cuomo has nominated Pat Foye, his deputy secretary for economic development, to be the next executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Foye's appointment is subject to the approval of the authority board. But unlike the other transportation post Cuomo has to fill — head of the New York MTA — Foye’s appointment does not require approval of the New York State Senate.

Chris Ward, the current executive director, steps down at the end of October, but will serve as an advisor to the Port Authority until the end of the year.

Cuomo announced the appointment in a press release Tuesday which stated that: “The Port Authority must meet its potential as a major economic engine that plans for the region and attracts business on an international scale. We must also improve its operations and maximize the value out of every dollar spent so that it is financially responsible and respects the tax and toll payers.”

Cuomo also said he would propose rolling the Moynihan Station Development Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation into the Port Authority.

In a statement, Foye said he was "honored" to be nominated for the job, and that he looked forward to "maintaining and improving the New York metropolitan region's vital transportation, infrastructure and economic development assets."

Before joining the governor's staff earlier this year, Foye was deputy county executive for economic development for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. Foye left that job in January after Mangano decided, against Foye’s advice, to sue a state-appointed control board to prevent it from taking over the county’s finances. The county lost the lawsuit.

Foye, a lawyer who worked for Skadden Arps, is a former downstate chairman for New York’s Empire State Development Corporation. Since May 2010, he has also sat on the board of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In the 1990′s Foye, working closely with former U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato, helped put together the takeover of the Long Island Lighting Company, or LILCO, by the Long Island Power Authority

In an interview, MTA board member Mitch Pally said Foye had been active in his role as the appointee from Nassau County in Long Island. "He’s delved into operating details of the system, communication issues with commuters and fare structure," Pally said.

Ward’s Legacy at the Port Authority

By many accounts, Cuomo and Ward never forged a close working relationship. For example, Cuomo’s schedule showed no meetings with Ward during the first eight months of 2011. By contrast Foye, as one of the Governor’s deputy secretaries, attended three meetings and a staff reception with Cuomo in the past six months.

Ward’s time leading the authority was marked by controversy and achievement: controversy over recent toll and fare increases on Hudson River crossings; achievement, primarily, for cutting through political and legal disputes to ramp up construction at the stalled World Trade Center site.

In particular, Ward sped up the building of the 9/11 memorial to insure its completion in time for the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. He also helped convince publisher Condé Nast to sign on as a major tenant at 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as The Freedom Tower.

Ward said renaming the anchor skyscraper was crucial to lightening the site’s symbolic weight and focusing on more mundane concerns, like construction deadlines. "We were free before 9/11, we were free after 9/11," he told The New York Times. "New Yorkers don’t need a tower named ‘freedom.’ New Yorkers need to know that we built it, that there’s a place to go and work."

Ward was less successful in navigating the sharp shoals of toll and fare increases.

(Photo: Chris Ward steps down at the end of October./Stephen Nessen for WNYC)

He initially proposed raising tolls on cash-paying drivers to as much as $15 during peak times, up from $8. He also wanted to hike the PATH commuter train fare by a dollar. What he got — after weeks of criticism from the governors of New York and New Jersey and excoriation from some of the public — was far less.

Ward contended the hikes were necessary to fund the authority’s $33 billion 10-year capital plan, $11 billion rebuilding of the World Trade Center and $6 billion price tag for increased security since the September 11 attacks. Losing that fight left him feeling, in his own words, "burned."

The lower toll hikes means Foye will most likely have to consider cutting or delaying projects from the authority’s capital plan. And that, in the words of outgoing executive director Ward, will mean "You’re going to be stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. You’re going to be stuck on buses trying to get into the Port Authority Bus Terminal. You’re going to be stuck at LaGuardia and JFK because [they] don’t have enough runway capacity."

Cuomo also announced the nominations of two new board members to the Port Authority: James Rubin, the former State Department spokesman during the Clinton administration, who worked until recently as the executive editor of Bloomberg View, and Rosanna Rosado, the publisher and CEO of El Diario La Prensa.