Will adding a new leader to the MTA help fix all its problems? Or is it just a way for Cuomo to keep an ally employed?
Pat Foye, until recently the Port Authority Executive Director, is now going to be President of the MTA. He’ll report to the Transit Authority’s new chair, Joe Lhota, while Ronnie Hakim, who has been managing the agency, will be the Managing Director of Operations.
With the subway in crisis, it would seem that Andrew Cuomo is naming an experienced transit leader to help take charge. Transit advocates cheered the news. Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the Riders Alliance, commented: “Gov. Cuomo has put in place an experienced team. Now they need him to guarantee the sustainable funding source they need to make good on their promise to fix our subways.”
But is this the real story?
Insiders doubt the cover story. Instead, they say Foye’s move is part of a long trail that leads back to Bridgegate, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie closed some of the lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish a political opponent. Foye ordered the lanes re-opened, angering Christie’s team.
In response to the scandal, New York and New Jersey agreed to a number of reforms to the bi-state agency. The most important included reforming its leadership, currently split between an executive director, appointed by the Governor of New York, and a chairman, appointed by the Governor of New Jersey. The Governors agreed to replace that setup with a single CEO but the search has run aground.
Also out as part of the shakeup: Port Authority chairman John Degnan, a Christie appointee who blamed Cuomo for the inability to find a CEO. Cuomo wanted Degnan gone, for that attack as well as Degnan’s advocacy for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal that would mostly benefit New Jersey commuters. But as part of a deal between the two Governors, both Degnan and Foye will be gone.
Instead, Rick Cotton, a Cuomo aide and former NBC Universal executive, will be Executive Director, replacing Foye. Former New Jersey state Senator Kevin O’Toole will replace Degnan as chair. The two are said to be acceptable to both Cuomo and Christie, and will jointly search for a Port Authority CEO.
So where’s Foye?
The machinations around the leadership of the Port Authority left Pat Foye, a close Cuomo ally, out of a job. And with the chaos at the MTA, that seemed the perfect place to slot Foye in.
Joe Lhota, announcing the appointment, said that Foye will work on modernizing the subways and commuter rail (MetroNorth and LIRR), a desperately needed but under-funded project. Any subway rider can talk about the importance of fixing the system to reduce crowding and delays. Plus, as Gizmodo reports, the system still isn’t prepared for another natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy. Foye will have no shortage of work.
Will he Foye able to accomplish that weighty task? Or is this just confusing the MTA’s leadership structure more? That’s the big question.