New York Post: Andrew Cuomo picks MTA construction chief Janno Lieber to be acting chairman

Originally published in New York Post on July 29, 2021.

Janno Lieber, who has run the MTA’s construction and development work since 2017, will take over as the authority’s acting chairman and chief executive when incumbent Pat Foye departs at the end of the month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

Lieber, 59, had been Cuomo’s pick to lead MTA operations as part of a proposal to change state law, split the authority’s top job in half and appoint Sarah Feinberg chair. The state Senate has so far refused to approve the change.

“At this critical time in state history, I believe the best long-term approach to leading the MTA would be to have two strong, experienced leaders at the helm — Sarah Feinberg as the first woman Chair and Janno Lieber as CEO,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Janno knows what it takes to make the MTA work for the millions of customers who rely on this system every day to get to their destination, and he will serve as Acting Board Chair and CEO.”

Lieber previously served at the US Department of Transportation under President Bill Clinton and led the World Trade Center redevelopment for Silverstein Properties for 14 years. He succeeds Foye, a Long Island attorney who led the MTA for all of 26 months.

“In Janno Lieber, Governor Cuomo appoints a seasoned professional with experience required to do one of New York’s toughest jobs at a critical moment,” said Betsy Plum of the Riders Alliance, one of the most persistent critics of Cuomo’s MTA management.

Cuomo and company are still holding out hope that the state Senate will approve the leadership “bifurcation” scheme, which the governor on Thursday called “the best long-term approach to leading the MTA.”

“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.”

But state Senate leaders have shown little interest in reconvening to pass Cuomo’s proposal, which was introduced as the annual legislative session wrapped up in June.

Lieber is allowed to serve as interim chair for six months. Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) said he and his colleagues are likely to wait until then to consider the governor’s proposal.

“That proposal was thrown at us in the last minute of session, and encountered significant opposition from transit experts,” Gianaris said. “There has been an increasing politicization of the MTA … that made many of us in the Senate take a skeptical view of these ideas.”

Gianaris criticized Feinberg’s “particularly high-profile role advancing a political agenda” during a months-long war of words with Mayor Bill de Blasio over subway crime. 

He cited comments the MTA put out in May listing mayoral contenders who supported “the MTA’s call for additional resources to address crime,” which he contrasted with Feinberg’s predecessor Andy Byford, who infamously clashed with Cuomo.

“Their job is to make sure the trains run on time, and the buses run on time and run well, not to decide which ideological candidates suit their needs,” Gianaris said. “Andy Byford in a million years would not have allowed that to happen.”

The leadership split is also opposed by Transport Workers Union International president John Samuelsen, a former Cuomo ally who recently soured on him.

Samuelsen on Thursday called Lieber “a nice enough guy,” but expressed concern about his push to use private, non-union contractors at the new East Side Access terminal set to open next year.

Asked whether Lieber would lead independently from Cuomo, Samuelsen said “absolutely not.”

“He’s where he’s at because they know he’s not going to work independently from the governor,” the union leader said. “The question is whether Cuomo is going to leave him alone and let him run the system.”

Read the full story at the New York Post