The MTA's construction chief, Janno Lieber, will become the agency's chief executive officer in an acting capacity on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed in a statement Thursday.
This decision follows a failed attempt by Cuomo, who controls the MTA, to overhaul the agency's leadership. Lawmakers in Albany did not act on Cuomo's proposal to split the role of board chair and CEO into two positions.
Cuomo nominated Lieber, the MTA's chief development officer, to become its permanent chief executive. Cuomo then nominated Sarah Feinberg, currently the MTA's interim president of New York City Transit, to become chair of the board.
Feinberg told NY1 she is stepping down from her post, after leading the agency in charge of subway, bus and paratransit operations during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I was always actually leaving the transit presidency this week," she told NY1. "The hope was that I would go on to become the first woman chair of the MTA. That's in flux."
The governor's statement Thursday indicated that that split is still in the state's plans, as it said that Lieber will serve "while legislation to proceed with [Feinberg's] nomination as Board Chair awaits approval from the State Senate."
"For three years now, I've been advocating that that job should be split," Feinberg said. It should be a CEO and a board chair, and the reason is this: It's a multibillion-dollar agency. It's a 72,000-person workforce. On its best day, it is big, it is unwieldy, and it is multiple challenges on every front."
"I am excited to get to work leading the MTA's continued recovery from the pandemic, though I am disappointed I won't yet be working alongside my supremely qualified friend Sarah Feinberg," Lieber said in a statement. "We are still counting on the Senate to act on the Governor's proposal and approve her historic nomination as the MTA's first woman Chair."
It has not been announced who will take over the role of president at NYC Transit.
"The barrier to improving bus service is low," said @FeinbergSarah as she prepares to leave her post as interim transit president. "In the subway system, it's expensive." She said busways can be improved with more busways and lane enforcement so buses aren't sitting in traffic. pic.twitter.com/SGXhCv30Ia— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) July 30, 2021
The current MTA chairman and CEO, Patrick Foye, is leaving the agency on Friday. He was Cuomo's nominee to become the interim chief of the Empire State Development Corporation.
Lieber, as chief development officer, oversees the MTA's capital spending programs, which includes subway signal upgrades, elevator installations at stations and projects like the extension of the Second Avenue subway to East Harlem.
The leadership change hits the MTA as it is trying to encourage as many people to take mass transit after the coronavirus pandemic caused ridership to plunge, hammering its finances.
Andy Byford, the last permanent president of New York City Transit, called the MTA's leadership void "a surreal situation."
"I'm sure it will work out, but it's certainly not ideal from where I sit," Byford said.
"The danger it brings is that it encourages, if not deliberately, it kind of encourages short-term thinking because you know that maybe you don't have the long-term tenure that a substanstive person would have," he added.
Byford, who now runs Transport for London in his native United Kingdom, says permanent leadership instills confidence in workers, riders and politicians who control transit funding.
His message to Albany lawmakers?
"I guess my advice would be, get through the politics and make a decision because the MTA is such an important part of New York," he said.