While the embattled MTA has been making headlines on a near-daily basis thanks to a slew of service problems in recent weeks, it has also been without an official head. Though commuters may not see light at the end of the tunnel on the former issue in the foreseeable future, resolution on the latter may be on the horizon.
According to a report from The New York Times, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who oversees the MTA, is expected to name a permanent leader — or quite possibly two — for the agency.
Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim has been the interim director of the MTA since its former chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast stepped down in January.
In the six months since, New Yorkers have faced countless commuting snafus, from mass delays, signal problems and in-station issues to a recent incident in which F train riders were stranded underground for nearly an hour in darkness — and without air conditioning.
Last month, the MTA unveiled a six-point initiative in hopes to regain straphangers’ confidence, a plan Hakim said then that the agency is embracing because “we know riders are frustrated — we are too.”
Among those six points is a plan that aims to split its chair and CEO positions from one role into two to “strengthen the overall leadership” and “achieve needed operational improvements.”
Hakim, who has previously overseen New York’s subway and bus systems and led New Jersey Transit, would be the first woman to head the MTA if she is named permanent leader of the agency, the Times reported.
While she was considered the frontrunner for the position, Cuomo may also be mulling appointing Lawrence S. Schwartz, his former top aide, as the agency’s chairman. The latter is causing some to think the governor, who is seeking reelection next year and is among the names swirling as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, is looking to gain more of a foothold of control over the MTA.
“Our goal is to have the best leadership at the MTA as possible,” Cuomo’s spokeswoman Dani Lever told the Times. “That process is ongoing, and you shouldn’t believe every rumor you hear.”
Hakim, according to the outlet, was one of two candidates interviewed for the MTA openings last month. The other, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Patrick J. Foy, took his hat out of the ring due to concerns over the splitting of the position, a source said.
After the six-point plan was announced, Hakim said the CEO would focus on day-to-day operations, while the chairman would handle fare hikes among other issues.