Newly-reinstated MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced the creation of two new top MTA positions on Thursday, to be filled by Pat Foye, previously executive director of the Port Authority, and Ronnie Hakim, who's served as interim MTA executive director since former chair Tom Prendergast retired in January.
Foye, appointed to the Port Authority by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011, championed the governor's infrastructure priorities while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's appointee, John Degnan, pushed for more funding to overhaul Penn Station. In his new post at the MTA, Foye will serve as the MTA's president in a brand new Office of the Chairman. Hakim, who has also previously served as executive director of NJ Transit, will serve as the MTA's managing director.
Foye will be in charge of "innovation and modernization" projects, while Hakim will manage daily subway operations, according to the MTA. Together the two will be responsible for implementing Lhota's recently-announced $800 million subway rescue plan. Lhota, who took his own MTA post unsalaried while remaining Senior Vice President of NYU Langone Medical Center, won't be committing himself full time to the agency.
Janno Lieber, former head of the MTA Capital Construction Company, will also join the Office of the Chairman as Chief Development Officer.
"Pat and Ronnie are veteran transportation professionals who together with Janno form the dynamic team the MTA needs at this moment," Lhota stated Thursday.
While revealing a six point plan to fix the subway in May, the MTA announced its intention to push for legislation to split the Chairman and CEO position into two in order to "strength[en] the overall leadership team." That legislation did not pass; Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ronnie Hakim (MTA Flickr)
"I think Pat is a great choice," Andrew Albert, a nonvoting member of the MTA board, told Gothamist. Appointed by the New York City Transit Riders Council, Albert is currently the board's longest standing member. "It's a real one-two-three punch."
Albert, who has been critical of Cuomo's flashy and debt-fueling infrastructure priorities, said that he did not think the appointment of another Cuomo ally would result in further deference to the governor. "I would think that one of the conditions under which Joe Lhota took the job was that he gets to bring in the people he wants and he gets the resources they need," Albert said.
Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the pro-business Partnership for New York City and a Cuomo ally, praised the governor in a statement Thursday for "transforming the culture of the MTA into a less bureaucratic and more entrepreneurial agency."
Cuomo, for his part, has spent the last few months flip flopping his MTA messaging, variously denying and demanding control of the transit authority (which he effectively controls).
Board members have recently raised the alarm about the MTA's finances. A new $32.5 billion capital plan is projected to increase the MTA's overall debt by $5 billion over the next five-to-seven years: from $38 billion to roughly $43 billion.
"With Pat Foye and Veronique Hakim's appointments, Governor Cuomo has assembled a strong team to lead the MTA. Ultimately, though, it will be up to the governor to ensure the MTA leadership team has the resources it needs to fix our subways—including a dedicated funding source for the improvements riders desperately need," said Nick Sifuentes, Deputy Director of the Riders Alliance.
Foye got a standing ovation at a Port Authority board meeting Thursday, calling Lhota the "Mariano Rivera of the MTA" who "literally rescued the MTA and the region after Hurricane Safety." Afterwards, the board skipped its customary question-and-answer session with the press.
The Port Authority guard has officially changed. And they ended the meeting without the regular reporter gaggle. They won't take questions.
— Danielle Furfaro (@DanielleFurfaro) August 3, 2017