Transit advocates want transit chief confirmed
With the MTA lacking a permanent chief since December, transit advocates want lawmakers to confirm the nomination of interim executive director Tom Prendergast to lead the agency.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April picked Prendergast to lead the MTA, but the longtime agency official has yet to secure a hearing with the state Senate, which must approve of the nomination. Lawmakers are scheduled to break for summer June 20.
"For the fourth time in four years, the MTA has uncertain leadership," said Richard Ravitch, who ran the MTA from 1979 to 1983. "Whatever the motives are for the delay, there's no possible good reason."
A spokesman for the Senate Republicans, who control the transportation committee, said Prendergast met with GOP senators to discuss several transit issues, Newsday reported yesterday. "This is part of the process," said spokesman Scott Reif, according to Newsday.
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said a confirmed leader for the MTA would have an easier time making critical decisions, citing the closure of two tunnels damaged by Superstorm Sandy that will disrupt R- and G-train service.
"The decision would have been made on a speedier basis if you had someone who was in the driver's seat," Russianoff said.
Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said confirming Prendergast would give the MTA someone with the "credibility and legitimacy" with lawmakers about funding the agency's five-year capital program for 2015-2019, which she said faces a projected $15 billion deficit.
"The sooner we have someone in place to do that," she said, "the more likely it is for us to see a capital program that addresses the needs the system has."
Meanwhile, the next MTA chair must hash out a contract with members of the Transport Workers Union Local 100. Jim Gannon, the union's spokesman, said there has not been a negotiation meeting in months.
"The chairman of the MTA is the closer," Gannon said. "Without him or someone having that authority to close, it's a definite impediment."
Wendy Pollack, spokeswoman for Regional Plan Association, said Prendergast will transition smoothly into the MTA's permanent chair, given his decades-long career with the agency.
"He'll hit the ground running. He's already there," Pollack said. "There isn't a steep learning curve."