Governor Kathy Hochul was sworn in on the job final Tuesday. By Sunday, she was already going through her first emergency on the MTA—and her first alternative to point out how she’d govern in a different way than former Governor Cuomo.
Final Sunday, a Con-Edison energy surge prompted wide-spread energy failures to subway indicators on eight strains, and in addition made it unimaginable for the MTA’s principal communications hub, the Rail Management Middle, to find these trains on the boards, leaving riders stranded till they might be evacuated.
In a departure from her predecessor, Governor Cuomo who relished excoriating Con-Ed for energy failures, Governor Hochul mentioned the “system failed” riders who have been caught on trains as a substitute promised to resolve what occurred.
“We are going to study classes from this and ensure it doesn’t occur once more,” she mentioned at an early morning press convention in entrance of MTA headquarters.
The usage of the pronoun “we” throughout a nasty information press convention was not misplaced on among the MTA’s fiercest critics.
“Governor Hochul confirmed that she has the backs of riders and is prepared to work with the MTA to ensure their wants are met and that vital points are addressed so they do not recur,” Lisa Daglian, the chief director of the Everlasting Residents Advisory Committee to the MTA, wrote in an announcement. “She took possession of management with out anticipatory recriminations, and that is a very good signal and refreshing change.”
Her second transit disaster got here a couple of days later with Hurricane Ida.
After Ida dropped a historic quantity of rainfall resulting in intensive subway flooding, and most strains being shut down, Hochul pledged to take swift motion.
“I present up, I discover out from the consultants what’s taking place on the bottom,” she mentioned Thursday. “This will occur once more subsequent week.”
Whereas she offers with local weather emergencies, Hochul continues to be within the strategy of changing holdovers from the Cuomo administration.
She promised to exchange anybody in her administration that was named within the Legal professional Basic’s report on Cuomo’s alleged harassment who had accomplished something “unethical.” However many individuals are hoping she’ll go additional and never simply change current Cuomo loyalists on the MTA, but additionally empower consultants on the company.
“It’s actually about giving them the house to do their jobs,” Rachael Fauss, Senior Analysis Analyst at Reinvent Albany, mentioned. “On the identical time there are Cuomo loyalists she might need to have a look at.”
Fauss mentioned the state price range director, Robert Mujica, is somebody Hochul ought to take into account changing. Cuomo pressured a last-minute change to the legislation to permit Mujica to serve on the board, since he wasn’t certified as somebody who doesn’t reside in one of many areas served by the MTA.
Fauss factors to at the very least one occasion by which Mujica’s twin function as price range director of the state conflicted along with his fiduciary responsibility to the MTA. Final 12 months, the state withheld $500 million from the MTA out of the state price range till shortfalls associated to COVID within the state’s basic price range have been sorted out. The cash was ultimately restored to the MTA, due to legislators stopping raids.
“Given the inherent battle of the state price range director needing to stability the state price range, too typically it’s been on the expense of the MTA devoted funds,” Fauss mentioned.
Larry Schwartz is one other MTA board member who’s a very long time advisor and loyalist to Cuomo. Schwartz was lately put in cost managing the state’s response to COVID and later the distribution of the vaccine. An ethics investigation was opened after he referred to as county executives to gauge their help of Cuomo, on the identical time vaccine roll outs have been happening.
Fauss advisable Schwartz additionally get replaced. Scwartz, a frequent critic of Fauss, agrees along with her on this level.
“I’ve been attempting to get off this MTA board, imagine it or not, since pre-COVID,” Schwartz mentioned. “I’m blissful to remain on longer if that’s what Governor Hochul needs and I’m blissful to step apart, it’s her name.”
Schwartz mentioned the governor had requested him to be concerned in every little thing from pushing to get the 2nd Avenue subway extensions accomplished on time and dealing on the Subway Motion Plan, to bettering on-time efficiency.
All three of these tasks noticed a backlash from MTA staff, and watchdogs who noticed the governor meddling unnecessarily in MTA points. Assets have been pulled from the 2nd Avenue subway, which many mentioned ought to’ve been used for routine upkeep, which led to dire delays and breakdowns shortly after the 2nd Avenue subway opened. The Subway Motion plan, which led to fixing ongoing points, like clogged drains, didn’t pace up service as a lot as former NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s efforts did, later reviews discovered.
Byford was pushed out of the job by Cuomo.
Hochul has not introduced any personnel adjustments on the MTA but. However Nicole Gelinas, senior researcher on the Manhattan Institute has some options.
“Put three individuals there who’ve some deep transportation, transit experience, and have some measure of being impartial from the one that appointed them,” Gelinas mentioned.
Cuomo did depart one parting present to Hochul. The governor will not must make any selections about congestion pricing, a probably fraught choice to cost drivers that enter Manhattan beneath sixtieth avenue, till properly after the subsequent election. The MTA is conducting a 16-month environmental overview, which simply obtained underway.