Governor Andrew Cuomo is a car guy. You get the feeling that when he’s not taking charge of a weather emergency or hectoring recalcitrant legislators, he’s probably under the hood of some vintage sports car. Or at least thinking about it. And that’s swell.
The problem is that car guys can sometimes forget that millions of New Yorkers rely on public transportation to get into and around the city. Most of those commuters rely on the services of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, chaired until recently by Joseph Lhota.
Mr. Lhota, of course, resigned as the MTA’s chairman and CEO two months ago to pursue the Republican Party’s mayoral nomination. Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, an MTA board member, has been serving as Mr. Lhota’s temporary replacement, but he has no interest in taking on the job on a permanent basis.
Transit advocates say that Mr. Cuomo has shown little interest in finding a new chair for the MTA in a timely manner. Last time there was a vacancy, in 2011, the governor put together a search committee right away, and within two months Mr. Lhota was on the job.
Not so this time. While the governor’s spokesman insists that Mr. Cuomo is actively searching for a replacement, transit advocates say they’ve heard nothing about the search. No high-profile search committee is sifting through résumés.
Mr. Cuomo has had his hands full since Superstorm Sandy, but the leadership of the MTA is no small matter. The agency will soon begin to spend nearly $5 billion in federal recovery dollars in Sandy’s aftermath, so priorities—and oversight—must be established. The MTA’s largest union, Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union, has been working without a contract for more than a year, and there have been no talks in four months.
Mr. Cuomo has been down this road before. He allowed vacancies on the board of the Long Island Power Authority to pile up—there were six slots awaiting his action when Sandy hit in late October. The agency’s acting CEO was filling in until Mr. Cuomo appointed a new, permanent chief. LIPA’s scandalously slow response to Sandy’s aftermath was the result of lethargic leadership and absent oversight.
Inaction can have consequences. While the MTA’s customers may not notice the agency’s leadership void at the moment, it’s just a matter of time.
The MTA needs permanent leadership. Mr. Cuomo should put together a search committee consisting of all interested parties and get the process moving.
This is one delay commuters shouldn’t have to endure.