Streams

Wanted: Someone Brave--Foolhardy?--Enough To Lead the NY MTA

Monday, August 08, 2011 - 02:24 PM


(New York, NY - WNYC) New York Governor Cuomo moments ago announced a search committee (full release at end of post) to find a replacement for outgoing NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Jay Walder, who abruptly announced his resignation last month. On October 21, Walder will forsake what has been America's plummest transit job to become CEO of MTR Corporation, a deep-pocketed private rail company in Hong Kong.

Among those asked to sift resumes and conduct interviews as members of the committee are former Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary Mortimer Downey,  Former Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch, and MTA watchdogs Gene Russianoff of The Straphangers Campaign and Bob Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association.

The group has a much wider span than Cuomo's transportation transition committee, which had no planners or transit advocates among its membership.

If the past is a guide, Cuomo will choose the next chair of the nation's largest transit system from one of two broad categories: a politically connected ally or campaign donor, like his choice to head the New York Thruway Authority; or a high-profile transportation professional in the mold of Walder and his predecessor, Eliot Sander.

Cuomo has spoken sparingly about transportation policy--his first months in office were marked by other priorities, like tax cuts, an on-time budget, and gay marriage--so it is difficult to divine his leanings on who'll get to helm the NY MTA through the storms ahead. (For a laugh-until-you-cry take on the near-apocalyptic forces arrayed against the authority, read this fake job posting that seeks a "politically savvy transit manager willing to preside over the gradual re-collapse of New York City's transit system...")

But transit watchers have noted with interest that the governor, in putting together his search committee, has reached out beyond government officials and other usual suspects.

The new chairperson will face a bewildering array of challenges as soon as he or she slides into the $350,000 a year position. The 2012-2015 capital construction plan has a $9 billion dollar shortfall; a crucial labor negotiation looms with the Transit Workers Union, which has already declared that the authority's plan to win a three-year contract with no wage increases is dead-on-arrival; and yet another fare increase is scheduled for next year--and two years after that. In addition, a faction of the state legislature is on the warpath against a mobility tax instituted in 2009 to shore up the NY MTA budget. The authority's chief financial officer has warned that repealing the tax, as Senate Republicans are angling to do, will collapse the NY MTA's already shaky fiscal stability.

"Jay Walder made great strides," said one transit advocate. "He improved the credibility of the MTA with the public and the state legislature. He found more cost efficiencies than in many years. But he's still winning over the public. That’s not something that’s going to be done in two years after thirty years of disappointing and infuriating the public."

And it will soon no longer be his headache, but someone else's.

Here's the full press release from Governor Cuomo:

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES MTA SEARCH ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Committee will assist with search for new MTA chairman

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the creation of an MTA Search Advisory Committee that will assist in recommending and evaluating candidates for the next chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"This committee will help conduct a national and international search to find and recommend the most talented candidates for the next chairman of the MTA," Governor Cuomo said. "I am committed to appointing a new chairman who will put straphangers first and who will continue to reform the MTA by reducing costs and waste, while improving efficiency and service."

The advisory committee is comprised of leading public transportation experts and management professionals in the public and private sectors. An executive search and recruitment firm, Krauthamer & Associates, has been engaged to assist in the process. The Governor's appointment of an MTA chairman is subject to Senate confirmation.

Mortimer Downey, former Deputy Secretary of U.S. Department of Transportation, said, "This committee will assist with a comprehensive review and evaluation process of top-tier professionals to be considered for next chairman of the MTA. With tight budget pressures and hard decisions ahead, the new chairman must ensure the MTA provides quality service while meeting tough fiscal demands. Governor Cuomo's strong commitment to the MTA is reflected in this committee's membership of experienced civic leaders and public transportation experts."

Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, said, "The next chairman and CEO of the MTA will shape transportation policies in the New York metropolitan region for millions of daily riders, and I congratulate the Governor for putting together a great panel to seek the best possible candidates."

Robert Yaro, President of the Regional Plan Association, said, "Governor Cuomo has charged this committee with assisting in the selection of a new chairman for the MTA and over the next months we will help evaluate and review top public transportation professionals from across the nation. I commend the Governor for assembling this committee to assist with finding a new chairman, and I look forward to continuing to work together to revitalize our state's public transportation system."

Members of the Committee include:

Vincent Alvarez, President, New York City Central Labor Council
Mr. Alvarez is President of the New York City Central Labor Council, an organization that represents more than one million union members. Mr. Alvarez is the council's first Hispanic and first full-time president. He previously served as deputy legislative director of the New York State A.F.L-C.I.O, and was former Chief of Staff at the Council.

Lillian Borrone, Board Chair, Eno Transportation Foundation
Ms. Borrone currently chairs the Eno Transportation Foundation, a nonprofit organization that partners with government agencies, professional and private organizations to improve the mobility, safety and sustainability of transportation systems. Ms. Borrone previously served as the Assistant Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and also held positions as the Director of the Port Commerce Department and Director of Management and Budget.

Stanley Brezenoff, President and CEO, Continuum Health Partners
Mr. Brezenoff currently serves as the President and CEO of Continuum Health Partners, a hospital system that includes Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Long Island College Hospital and The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and was the former Deputy Mayor of Operations, as well as the First Deputy Mayor of New York City, during the Koch administration.

Mary Ann Crotty, Former Director of State Operations
Ms. Crotty is the former Deputy Secretary for Transportation and former Director of State Operations under Governor Mario Cuomo.

Beverly Dolinsky, Former Executive Director, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee
Ms. Dolinsky formerly served as the Executive Director Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA for 25 years. Ms. Dolinksy also was the first riders' representative on the MTA board, a non-voting seat that was established in 1995, where she served for 8 years.

Mortimer Downey, Former Deputy Secretary, US Department of Transportation
Mr. Downey formerly served as the Deputy Secretary at US Department of Transportation during the Clinton Administration. He is currently Secretary of the Eno Transportation Foundation and a Senior Advisor for Parsons Brinckerhoff. He began his career at the Port Authority of NY and NJ, where he held various positions. Mr. Downey has also served as the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of the New York MTA.

Fernando Ferrer, Board Member, MTA
Mr. Ferrer formerly served as Bronx Borough President from 1987 to 2001. Upon leaving this post, he ran for mayor of New York in both 2001 and 2005. He is the former director of the Drum Hill Institute, and is a current co-chairman of Mercury Public Affairs.

Howard Glaser, Director of State Operations

Sidney Holmes, Partner, Winston Strawn LLP
Mr. Holmes is a corporate partner at Winston Strawn LLP, and has served as bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, and bank counsel in virtually every type of municipal bond financing throughout the United States and its territories. In May 2008, Mr. Holmes was appointed by New York Governor David Paterson to serve as a commissioner of the Port Authority of NY and NJ. Mr. Holmes is also a commissioner of the New York State Insurance Fund and is a board member of the New York Urban League, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

Denis Hughes, President, New York State AFL-CIO
Mr. Hughes is the current president of the 2.5 million-member New York State AFL-CIO. He first became a union member at the age of 16 when he joined the Retail Clerks Union, and later joined the AFL-CIO as Political Director and Assistant to the President. He was first elected as President in 1999, and was subsequently re-elected to three consecutive terms. Mr. Hughes has also served as Commissioner of the New York State Insurance Fund, and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

William Longhi, President & CEO, Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc.
Mr. Longhi has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. since February 2009. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President of Central Operations at Con Edison Company of New York. Since joining Con Edison in 1976, Mr. Longhi has held a variety of positions throughout the company, including Vice President of Operations at O&R in 2000 and 2001.

Mitchell Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management
Prior to his appointment as Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Mr. Moss was the Director of NYU's Taub Urban Research Center, where he directed research projects for the National Science Foundation, Charles Revson Foundation, U.S. Department of Commerce, New York State Economic Development Corporation, and leading private corporations. Professor Moss has been on the faculty of NYU since 1973.

Richard Ravitch, Former Lieutenant Governor of New York
Mr. Ravitch is a veteran public servant, having worked in both federal and state government for decades. In the late 1960s, Ravitch left his family's construction firm to join President Lyndon Johnson's administration. Under President Johnson, Ravitch served as a member of the United States Commission on Urban Problems and was elected president of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. Later, under Governor Hugh Carey, Mr. Ravitch served as chairman of the New York State Urban Development Corporation, rescuing the agency from near-bankruptcy. Mr. Ravitch went onto become chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In 2008, Governor Paterson tapped him to chair a commission charged with restoring the MTA to sound financial footing and he subsequently served as Lieutenant Governor. Currently Mr. Ravitch is a partner at New York based law firm Ravitch, Rice & Co.

Bill Rudin, Chairman, Association for a Better NY
In addition to serving as the Chair of the Association for a Better NY, Mr. Rudin is currently the President of Rudin Management Company, Inc. He also serves as Chairman of the Board for the Battery Conservancy and as a member of the Boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Real Estate Board of New York and New York University.

Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
Mr. Russianoff is senior attorney and chief spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign for NYPIRG, a Manhattan-based public transportation advocacy group that focuses mainly on subway and bus services run by New York City Transit. Mr. Russianoff has worked for NYPIRG since his graduation from Harvard Law School in 1978.

Desmond Ryan, Executive Director, Association for a Better Long Island
Mr. Ryan is the Executive Director at ALBI. Previously, Mr. Ryan worked at Grumman Aerospace where he worked in public affairs issues in both Washington, D.C. and Albany. He has also served as Director of Government Affairs at the Long Island Association, and worked in the Office of the New York State Assembly Speaker in the 1980s where he focused on legislative issues affecting the Long Island region.

Thomas Schwarz, President, SUNY Purchase
Mr. Schwarz has served as President of SUNY Purchase since 2003. He is a retired partner from Skadden, Arps, Meagher and Flom, which he originally joined in 1969. At Skadden, he was National Practice Leader of the Litigation Department and the founding partner of the firm's Committee on Diversity. Mr. Schwarz served as mayor of the village of Ocean Beach in Suffolk County from 1978 to 1987 and was Special Counsel to the New York State Commission on Government Integrity 1987-1991. He also served as acting president of Hamilton College in 1999.

Rodney Slater, Partner, Patton Boggs
Mr. Slater is a partner at Patton Boggs. Previously, Mr. Slater served as Secretary of the US Department of Transportation during the Clinton Administration. He also served as director of the Federal Highway Administration. He is also a partner at James Lee Witt Associates and currently serves on the board of directors of Africare and The Dance Theater of Harlem. He is the chair of the Board of Trustees of United Way and serves on the corporate boards of Delta Air Lines and Verizon.

Robert Steel, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development

Robert K. Steel is currently the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. He is responsible for the city's five-borough economic development strategy and job-creation efforts, and spearheads major development projects city-wide. Deputy Mayor Steel oversees various agencies including the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Department of City Planning, Department of Small Business Services, NYC Economic Development Corporation and NYC & Company. Previously, Mr. Steel was the President and CEO of Wachovia. He also formerly served as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to entering government service, Mr. Steel spent nearly three decades at Goldman Sachs, where he became co-head of the U.S. Equities Division and Vice Chairman of the firm.

Robert Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association

Mr. Yaro is currently President of Regional Plan Association, the nation's oldest independent metropolitan policy, research, and advocacy group. Mr. Yaro also co-chairs the Empire State Transportation Alliance and the Friends of Moynihan Station, and is Vice President of the Forum for Urban Design.

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