James Weinstein, who oversaw mass transportation for the Super Bowl that was marred by weekday delays and game-day strandings, is leaving New Jersey Transit, the third-largest U.S. commuter system.
Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who appointed Weinstein as executive director in 2010, didn’t give a reason for his departure in a statement yesterday. A state Senate committee has scheduled a hearing on the transit agency’s “repeated failures,” according to a statement by Senator Bob Gordon, a Democrat from Fair Lawn.
Weinstein was head of the agency when Hurricane Sandy damaged or destroyed $120 million worth of rail cars and locomotives -- a third of its fleet -- stored in low-lying Kearny and Hoboken. A report four months before the Oct. 29, 2012, storm warned that rolling stock in that area would be vulnerable to water surges from a hurricane.
A “low-level manager,” not Weinstein, was responsible for leaving the equipment where it could be damaged, Christie said in an October interview with The Record, a newspaper based in Woodland Park. He said he had confidence in Weinstein and called him a “stand-up guy.”
Weinstein will be replaced by Veronique Hakim, currently executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Joseph Mrozek, will move to Hakim’s position.
“I’m sure that New Jersey Transit will flourish with new leadership, which I hope will be chosen with great care,” said state Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck.
After Christie took office in 2010, he cut the agency’s $296 million state subsidy by $33 million in his first year to help close a budget gap he said had grown to $2.2 billion. New Jersey Transit raised fares 22 percent as the agency sought to cover the shortfall. The state currently provides a subsidy of about $285 million.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of that chamber’s transportation committee, said the agency will continue to be hobbled until the state steps up its funding. Weinstein ran the agency “at a very difficult time,” Wisniewski said in a telephone interview.
“You can’t continue running a transportation system on glue, rubber bands and wishes,” he said.
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