Jay Walder, chairman and chief executive officer of the New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he intends to serve his full six-year term which ends in 2015, regardless of who is elected governor in November.
“I’d like to stay, I hope to stay and I expect to stay,” Walder told a breakfast gathering of business and political leaders today sponsored by Crains New York Business magazine.
The Legislature last year consolidated the former positions of executive director and chairman into one job with a fixed six-year term to “allow somebody, whoever it is, to stand up and make the difficult decisions that need to be made” without political interference, Walder said.
The transit agency, the largest in the U.S. and with a $13 billion budget, carries 8.5 million daily bus, subway and commuter train riders and operates nine toll-generating bridges and tunnels. It has become an issue in this year’s gubernatorial campaign as Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino each criticized its management and used the word “overhaul” to describe what the agency needs. Paladino has said he would dismantle the MTA and fire Walder if elected.
“The MTA is horribly mismanaged, and it’s a sinkhole of money,” Paladino said today in a news release issued by his campaign. “It’s among the least transparent entities in the world and was even found to have kept two separate sets of books. New Yorkers are paying more each year and getting less in service.”
MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin declined to comment.
Walder said he doesn’t intend to talk with either candidate until after the Nov. 2 election. “I have 21 days to hopefully not have any conversations,” he said in response to a reporter’s question.
In his speech this morning, Walder said the agency had eliminated 3,500 positions, including 20 percent from its headquarters, as part of actions that have trimmed $500 million from the budget.
Countdown clocks inform passengers when they can expect the next subway at 75 stations, and more than 3,700 working security cameras monitored by the New York Police Department have been installed, he said. Last week the agency signed contracts with AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG’s cellphone unit, T-Mobile, to provide services including Wi-Fi in subway tunnels.
“The point here is simple,” he said. “Things are happening.”
Walder, 51, who was nominated by Governor David Paterson in July 2009 and confirmed by the senate two months later, receives a salary of $350,000 a year and may be removed by a vote of the MTA board.
Earlier this month, the board approved a series of fare and toll increases. They were meant to close a $900 million deficit because of a $140 million cut in state aid and less-than- forecast revenue from a payroll tax in New York City and seven suburban counties served by the agency’s trains and buses.
Former MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow resigned in 2007 without serving the remainder of his six-year term, saying he wanted newly elected Governor Eliot Spitzer to choose his own leader. Several months after Paterson succeeded Spitzer in 2008, former MTA executive director Eliot Sander resigned, creating the opportunity for Paterson to appoint Walder, who took office Oct. 5, 2009.
Walder served as finance director of Transport for London from 2000 to 2007, and executive director of the New York City Transit Authority, which operates the city’s buses and subways, from 1993 to 1995.
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