Kalikow Danced to Spitzer's Tune in M.T.A. Exit

kalikow Kalikow Danced to Spitzer's Tune in M.T.A. Exit

Peter Kalikow’s Monday morning announcement that he would step down after six years as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority surprised no one, not least of whom Mr. Kalikow himself.

“Make no mistake about it, this was a tough job,” Mr. Kalikow said at the resignation announcement, held in 101 Park Avenue, a building his family owns. “I could actually take my jacket off and show you my bruises to prove it, some of them more painful than others.”

In other words, he was ready to go.

But, eminently, Governor Eliot Spitzer was ready to have him go. Before he was even elected governor in November, Mr. Spitzer was talking about his intention to ease out Mr. Kalikow, whom Governor George Pataki appointed to a fresh six-year term just last year.

Mr. Kalikow, for his part, responded to the incoming Governor’s vows by saying he’d stick around as chairman for one or two years more. Then, he said he’d stay on until projects he wanted had gotten off the ground; and then he said he’d resign sometime this spring.

Well, it’s spring, consistently warm, finally, in New York City. And the controversies of his tenure have caught up to Mr. Kalikow, a real-estate developer and a former owner of The New York Post—the two-day transit strike last winter; accusations over two sets of books for the M.T.A.; politically motivated land sales; and so on. This was not the sort of resume for a major player in the Spitzer administration.

Who, though, will play Mr. Kalikow’s part now as chairman?

It can’t be Lee Sander, the M.T.A.’s recently minted executive director and chief executive. The Governor has ruled out the chairmanship for Mr. Sander, an ardent supporter of the Second Avenue Subway who wears his M.T.A. identification badge even at his desk in the authority’s Madison Avenue headquarters. Mr. Spitzer, during his transition to Governor, had indicated Mr. Sander was in line for the chairmanship.

To give him a third title, however, would require a legislative change that would undo a new law prohibiting the chairman and the executive of the agency to be the same person—a law formed from the belief by corporate governance experts that a board should be truly independent and supervise the agency’s top staff. The Governor determined that making that change would be too difficult, a state official told The Observer.

Finding Mr. Kalikow’s successor, then, will likely take another several weeks. The outgoing chairman will stay on the job until then, a job he described yesterday as “grueling… the hardest work I have ever done.”