Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Transportation Commissioner for nearly seven years, Polly Trottenberg, left the administration in December for a position in Washington as the second in command at the U.S. Department of Transportation, working alongside newly-confirmed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeig.

On Wednesday, the mayor announced Trottenberg’s replacement: Hank Gutman, the chair of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, who has scant experience in the transportation field.

Gutman did serve on a panel charged with reviewing plans to fix a crumbling section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. He is also on the board of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and has also been a reliable campaign donor to the mayor, giving $14,475 to de Blasio during the 2013 and 2017 campaigns, as well as $3,800 to his failed presidential run.

“We have a chance to turn a new path for this city. One that leaves Robert Moses’s vision behind, beats back COVID-19, protects our environment. And builds a fair, safe, and equitable recovery for all of us,” Gutman said at a press conference with the mayor on Wednesday.

A City Hall press release announcing Gutman’s appointment cited his bonafides as a 45-year Brooklyn resident and “retired Partner of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP, where he headed the Intellectual Property Practice Group from 1996 until his recent retirement.” Gutman is also a trustee of Brooklyn Public Library.

None of these qualifications point to deep experience running a city agency with more than 5,000 employees and an annual budget of $900 million.

“I have seen Hank get results. I've seen him deal with very thorny situations and really tough community dynamics and find common ground and move an agenda forward, but always with a sharp equity lens,” de Blasio said on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said that Gutman’s donations did not play a role in his appointment.

Gutman will be charged with overseeing the last 11 months of the mayor’s transportation agenda, which includes adding 10,000 new bike racks throughout the city, “doubling down” on open streets and open restaurants, and adding two bike lanes on the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges.

Gutman will also have to grapple with the challenges of the mayor’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities. In 2020, overall traffic fatalities increased for the second year in a row.

De Blasio told reporters that the current interim DOT Commissioner, Margaret Forgione, who’s worked for DOT since the 1990s, did not want the top job. The mayor insisted that Gutman was in good hands, because of deputies like Forgione and Jee Mee Kim.

“We're going to use every minute of the next 11 months to get a lot done,” de Blasio said.

At least one advocacy group for safer streets said they supported Gutman’s appointment.

“Mayor de Blasio must make sure our streets are a pathway to recovery during his final year in office, and Hank Gutman is a strong choice to lead NYC DOT during this critical moment. We congratulate Commissioner Gutman on his appointment,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris wrote in a statement.

While the Riders Alliance didn’t comment on Gutman specifically, it issued a statement focused on the issues facing the new commissioner.

"Mayor de Blasio must put his new team to work on bus lanes and busways to honor essential workers and fix longtime inequities. He should build on Polly Trottenberg's legacy and finish strong with another 30 bus lane miles before leaving City Hall,” Riders Alliance organizing manager Stephanie Burgos-Veras wrote in a statement. "The Streets Master Plan law requires 30 new bus lane miles each year starting next year. Mayor de Blasio and his transportation officials should put riders first at every turn and design the equitable streets New Yorkers need right now."