First woman is named to run New York’s transit agency

Written By: Winnie Hu © 2021 The New York Times The New York Times
New York, United States Published: Jun 08, 2021, 10:23 PM(IST)

Sarah Feinberg Photograph:( Twitter )

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Feinberg has urged the city to provide more policing of the subway system and more homeless outreach resources following a spate of high-profile attacks on riders and transit workers in recent months

Sarah Feinberg will be nominated to become the first woman to lead the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest public transit system in North America, responsible for running New York City’s subway, buses and two commuter train lines, transit officials said on Tuesday.

Feinberg, 42, a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has steered the city’s sprawling subway system through the pandemic, which has killed scores of workers and sickened thousands more while decimating the transit system’s ridership and cratering the agency’s finances.

She also oversaw the first overnight shutdown of the subway in its history. The move allowed for intensive cleanings, but some public transit advocates said it went on for too long and hurt essential workers who rely on the trains during off hours.

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Feinberg has urged the city to provide more policing of the subway system and more homeless outreach resources following a spate of high-profile attacks on riders and transit workers in recent months.

But that has also led critics to accuse her of exaggerating crime in the subway and scaring off riders at a time when the system is trying to convince people to return. Subway ridership still stands at less than half of its pre-pandemic level of 5.5 million daily weekday riders.

"I am thrilled to be stepping into a position that allows me to continue to play a significant role in how our subway and bus systems operate, but to also have even more of an impact in shaping the future of the agency, and of transportation in this city and region," Feinberg said in a statement.

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"There should be no higher priority than ensuring we are doing all we can to bring ridership back — and as ridership comes back, so will the city’s economic recovery."

Cuomo will nominate Feinberg to become the chairwoman of the MTA’s 21-member board, which is appointed by state, city and regional officials. Her nomination would have to be confirmed by the New York state Senate.

Feinberg would replace Patrick J. Foye, the current MTA chairman and chief executive, who is leaving to become interim president and chief executive of Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.

Janno Lieber, who oversees the transit agency’s capital projects, will be appointed by Cuomo to take over for Foye as chief executive of the transit agency. He will be in charge of running day-to-day MTA operations and oversee the agency’s ambitious effort to modernize the transit system.

"The COVID crisis proved — once again — that mass transit is New York’s linchpin, in good times and bad,” Lieber said. “Now we need to keep building a system that connects people from all communities to jobs, education and opportunity. I look forward to taking on this important new role and to lead MTA in support of the New York City region’s economic revival."

Foye said he was proud of the way the transit agency had responded to the pandemic, especially the transit workers who made sure that essential workers and emergency responders were able to get to their jobs when much of the city was shut down.

"I know the strong gains we have made will continue," Foye said.

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