Future of MTA Leadership Unclear After Lawmakers Reject Cuomo's Proposal

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Sarah Feinberg was nominated to become chair New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority this week but now her future as the first woman to head North America's largest public transit system is unclear after lawmakers rejected Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to split up the agency's leadership.

According to the Wall Street Journal, members of the Senate and Assembly say they're worried that Cuomo's legislation would remove oversight of the MTA. With the legislators taking their summer recess on Thursday, there will be no vote to separate the agency's chair and CEO position currently held by Patrick Foye.

Foye on Tuesday was named interim president and CEO of Empire State Development, the state’s economic development arm. Janno Lieber, head of the MTA’s construction and development, was appointed the MTA’s CEO and Cuomo nominated Feinberg as chair.

“There should be no higher priority than ensuring we are doing all we can to bring ridership back — and as ridership comes back, so will the city’s economic recovery,” Feinberg, who's currently the interim president of New York City Transit, said in a statement.

Feinberg, Lieber and Foye led the MTA through existential challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused ridership to plummet more than 90% at its peak. They helped secure more than $14 billion in federal aid for the MTA as it sought to plug huge budget holes brought on by decreased activity on subways and buses and at bridges and tunnels.

The authority spent hundreds of millions of dollars on cleaning and disinfecting subway cars and stations, and took the rare step of closing down the subway system overnight to accommodate the additional cleaning.

Recently, Feinberg has clashed with Mayor Bill de Blasio's office and the NYPD over additional police staffing in the subways as assaults have spiked.

Prior to leading NYC Transit, Feinberg led the Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates U.S. railroads.

Lieber oversaw the approval of the MTA's $51.5 billion capital program and has been involved in numerous large-scale projects including the L Train tunnel rehabilitation, the second phase of the Second Avenue subway line and the connection of the Metro-North suburban rail line to Penn Station. Prior to joining the MTA he managed multibillion-dollar development projects at the World Trade Center on behalf of Silverstein Properties.

The MTA has also called on the NYPD to do more than adding roughly 500 additional officers in recent months. However, the NYPD's Transit Chief suggests the transit agency and the union are wrong to say there has been a rise in crime. Gaby Acevedo reports.
Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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