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Bon Foye-age! MTA chairman bids farewell at final board meeting

MTA chairman and CEO Pat Foye.
File photo by Mark Hallum

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair and CEO Pat Foye bid farewell at his final monthly board meeting Wednesday, July 21, after four years at the helm of North America’s largest public transportation system.

“It’s been an extraordinary honor to lead this critical agency — especially at this period of time — and to work with this dedicated board and the smart, tireless, and heroic staff to serve the region and my fellow New Yorkers these last four years,” Foye said.

The transit honcho will officially depart the MTA on July 30 and is headed to lead the Empire State Development Corporation as interim president and CEO in September, and he said the defining challenge of his tenure was steering the agency through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the depths of the pandemic, the MTA was the circulatory system that carried all of these heroic essential workers and first responders to the frontlines, so that they could carry all of us through the crisis,” he said. “The pandemic is the most significant thing that’s ever affected MTA… It’s an extraordinary chapter in the MTA’s history and I’m proud to have played a part in that.”

He oversaw the subway system’s overnight shutdown, a first in its 116-year history, and the transit agency had to weather a staggering 95% drop in subway ridership at the outset of the pandemic and come back from a cratering budget which “fell off a cliff,” due to the drop in revenue.

The transit guru even contracted the coronavirus himself early on in March.

It is still unclear who will take over the agency’s top job — or jobs — as a bill to split the position in two by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his two picks for the roles remain in legislative limbo.

Cuomo nominated MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber for the CEO role and tapped New York City Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg for the unpaid chairperson role, which would make her the first woman to take on that job.

The bill — which initially would have given Cuomo unanimous control to appoint a CEO without legislative oversight, before he added that power check back into the law — was green-lit in the Assembly but still needs approval in the upper chamber, and Foye said he hopes lawmakers will return to Albany soon to pass it.

“We are hopeful that the Senate will take up the bifurcation bill and the confirmations, and that’s a matter I’m going to leave to the governor’s office and the legislature,” he said.

Lieber, for his part, declined to say if he’d accept the joint leadership role should the bill fail.

“I’m definitely not going to engage in hypotheticals,” Lieber said in response to a reporter’s question.

MTA sources expect Feinberg to leave her current position on the same date as Foye. 

Whoever takes over will be faced with plenty of daunting tasks, including bringing ridership back from the pandemic slump, implementing a first-in-the-nation central business tolling program for driving entering Manhattan, and seeing through the agency’s $54.8 billion 2020-2024 capital plan. 

Foye was first appointed as MTA president in 2017 and he took over the joint role of chief executive officer and chairman in 2019 succeeding Joe Lhota, who resigned in 2018 due to conflicts of interest with outside income.

The Long Island native previously headed Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as executive director for six years and was the president of the PATH system.

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