With WSJ Skewering NJ Transit, a Gov. Murphy Would Probably Clean House

The agency earns plenty of criticism, which may spell end of the line for Christie appointees

Christie appointees at NJ Transit might be looking for work if Phil Murphy is elected in November. Observer staff

A tweet by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy this morning is bad news for Michael Drewniak, the former press secretary to Gov. Chris Christie.

Spurred on by a Wall Street Journal story detailing increased problems experienced by New Jerseyans who commute to work in Manhattan, Murphy called the morning crush “wholly unacceptable,” and said that “New Jersey Transit needs new leadership committed to putting commuters’ needs first.” Drewniak, who had no prior transportation experience, became a top executive at NJ Transit in 2015, after working for Christie at the U.S. Attorney’s office and in the office of the Governor. Initially, he was Chief of Policy; he became Chief of Staff at the agency last year.  It’s fair to assume that Murphy would oust Drewniak if he is elected.

After Drewniak, Murphy will need to decide just how broadly his call for new leadership will be. The current Executive Director is Steven Santoro, a 17-year NJ Transit employee. Santoro assumed the post last fall after Christie’s first choice, Amtrak official William Crosbie, backed out after initially accepting the position. 

Christie’s first NJ transit boss was James Weinstein, who faced considerable criticism for failing to move rail cars to higher ground in advance of Superstorm Sandy, which resulted in more than $100 million worth of damage. After Weinstein came Ronni Hakim, who had run the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway during Christie’s first term. She left in 2015 to take over the New York City Transit Authority.

The next Governor will immediately get three seats on the NJ Transit Board: the state Transportation Commissioner serves as Chairman; the State Treasurer and an additional Governor’s Representative also serve. That leaves three more seats: Flora Castillo, who was first appointed by Gov. Christie Whitman; trucking executive James Finkle; and Raymond W. Greaves, who is Bayonne’s Third Ward Council Member and a labor leader.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the Transportation Commission included banker Bruce Meisel. Mr. Meisel resigned earlier this year and was replaced by Mr. Greaves.

With WSJ Skewering NJ Transit, a Gov. Murphy Would Probably Clean House