Joe Lhota, who headed the MTA before resigning in 2013 to run for mayor against Bill de Blasio, is coming back to the agency. In a press release sent out after 11 p.m. on Wednesday night, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the appointment: "Joe Lhota is a tested and experienced leader with the proven track record needed to address the enormous challenges facing the nation’s largest mass transportation system."
The MTA faces a growing backlash from frustrated commuters, with the subways' poor service becoming the new norm and an upcoming "Summer of Hell" for LIRR riders. (Some LIRR riders, at least, will be getting discounts for avoiding the deepest ring of Hell, i.e. Penn Station.) On Tuesday, Cuomo asked for control of the MTA board, which he already effectively controls.
Here's how Lhota's return unfolded, according to the NY Times:
The surprise, after-hours announcement was approved late on Wednesday by the State Senate after its Finance Committee voiced its support at an impromptu meeting in the Capitol, during which Mr. Lhota — speaking over Skype — expressed his frustration with problems with the city’s subways.
“I know the M.T.A. can do a lot better,” he said.
Know what Albany couldn't get done? A deal for mayoral control of NYC schools.
Politico reports that Lhota told State Senators that "the MTA needs to start 'thinking outside the box' as it grapples with subway service delays caused by failing equipment and a coming 'summer of hell' for Long Island Railroad commuters."
He said more trains should be routed into the Atlantic Terminal, from which riders would have easy subway access to Lower Manhattan. He also said he wanted the MTA to control Penn Station, noting that its stewardship has turned Grand Central Terminal into a gem.
And he said there should be more focused, overnight shutdowns of certain lines so that the authority’s workers could focus on repairs.
“One of the things we’re going to have to do is do it line by line. … We’re going to have to look at scheduled shutdowns,” Lhota said. “I find it extremely inconvenient, but we’re going to have to do it.”
Earlier on Wednesday, during an MTA board meeting, board member James Vitiello of Dutchess County said, "The governor does in all practical ways run the MTA. Generally things are passed unanimously by the board."
"What is not welcome is when we as a board are neutered from making decisions on behalf of the public, as a public benefit corporation. We have not been able to make some key decisions. We are not seeing the level of control we had before," board member Veronica Vanterpool added, criticizing Cuomo's reach. Vitiello was appointed by the Dutchess County Executive while Vanterpool was appointed by de Blasio.
State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) issued a statement after Lhota's appointment, "The MTA is in full-on crisis and the appointment of a new MTA Chairman alone won’t solve the problem."
Lhota, who is currently an executive at NYU Langone Medical Center and will remain one while steering the MTA, is credited for leading NYC mass transit back from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. He is also known for basically
wanting to kill adorable subway kittens:
Here's the full press release from the governor's office:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the appointment of Joseph J. Lhota to serve as the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In this role, Mr. Lhota will direct the executive management team to address the current crisis facing the MTA. As chairman, Mr. Lhota will receive a salary of $1 per year, and delegate CEO duties to a permanent Executive Officer, a position for which the search is ongoing.
"Joe Lhota is a tested and experienced leader with the proven track record needed to address the enormous challenges facing the nation’s largest mass transportation system," Governor Cuomo said. "In the wake of the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, Joe stepped up and delivered for New Yorkers - ensuring our region’s subways, buses and commuter rails were up and running as quickly as possible. There is much hard work to be done to address the MTA’s current failures, and the level of service and daily frustrations commuters are experiencing are completely unacceptable. I know Joe will move to address these issues immediately and ensure a reliable and effective transportation system worthy of the city it serves."
"This is an incredibly challenging time for the MTA and we will immediately and aggressively tackle the problems the system is facing after decades of disinvestment," said Joseph Lhota. "The hardworking women and men of the MTA are dedicated, driven and talented -- they are the engine that makes our city and state run -- and working together we will rebuild the system and improve service for all New Yorkers. It is an honor to once again serve the people of New York, and I am grateful to Governor Cuomo for his support and this nomination."
Mr. Lhota previously served as the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Prior to that, Mr. Lhota served as the New York City Deputy Mayor for Operations where he oversaw day-to-day management of the City and supervised City agencies.
Mr. Lhota also served as Budget Director, where he managed the City's $36 billion operating budget and $45 billion capital budget, cut costs, led agency reorganizations and consolidations, and implemented performance-based strategic planning. Before that, Mr. Lhota was the Commissioner of Finance for New York City.
Mr. Lhota will continue to serve as Senior Vice President, Vice Dean and Chief of Staff at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Mr. Lhota graduated from Georgetown University, where he earned a bachelor of science in business administration and received his master of business administration from the Harvard Business School.