Straphangers Swoon for David Paterson: Advocates Cautiously Optimistic on Governor’s Appointment to MTA Board

He’s on board.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is not the only person praising his latest appointment to the MTA Board, his predecessor David Paterson. As the Daily News‘ Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett reported earlier today, Governor Paterson will be replacing trucker girl Nancy Shevell (whom The Observer wrote perhaps the definitive profile of last year). A number of transit advocates and even the head of the MTA greeted the appointment of the former governor as a promising sign for the too-often-troubled transportation agency.

“Once confirmed by the Senate, former Governor Paterson will bring a unique and practical perspective, particularly with respect to issues affecting minority communities and disabled New Yorkers,” MTA executive director (and Cuomo appointee) Joe Lhota said in a statement. “I look forward to former Governor Paterson bringing to our board deliberations the charm, wit and compassion he has shown throughout his public life.”

Mr. Lhota praised Governor Pateron’s 35 years of public service, which, like Mr. Lhota’s own, is seen as a hopeful sign that he could wrangle concessions out of a stingy legislature in the fare fights to come. “With another planned fare hike looming in January 2013, Paterson’s experience as a governor and state senator will prove critical to working with Albany lawmakers to find new funding for our transit system, sparing overburdened New Yorkers yet another fare hike,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

He pointed to the governor’s record on the MTA, which had been widely lauded if for no other reason than his appointment of the well-respected Jay Walder, who was essentially cut loose by Governor Cuomo in favor of his guy. Governor Paterson also had his deputy governor Richard Ravitch work out a plan to at least temporarily solve the MTA’s financial problems, though they did not stick, with those new cuts looming.

“Paterson knows well that straphangers can’t handle another hit to their wallets—as Governor, he saw New Yorkers endure back to back fare hikes and reap service cuts in return,” Mr. White continued. He also created new funding for our transit system. If anyone knows New Yorkers are tired of paying more for less and how to find fairer ways to invest in transit, it’s David Paterson.”

Actually, with a record like that, you would begin to question him as an ally. Still, some believe he will be an important champion for minorities within the system. “The former governor will add badly needed diversity to the MTA board, and should make it more sensitive to the needs of African Americans and the disabled, among others,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers campaign said.

As for the governor himself, he is already taking the job very seriously. On his radio show earlier today, one of Governor Paterson’s producers asked if he would follow in Ms. Shevell’s footsteps on the board. The governord smartly responded: “Two are dead. She’s got Paul McCartney. That only leaves Ringo.”

A wit like that may be just what the MTA needs to straighten out its absurdist thicket.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

Straphangers Swoon for David Paterson: Advocates Cautiously Optimistic on Governor’s Appointment to MTA Board