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Lawmakers oppose Cuomo’s plan for MTA leadership


The future direction of the country’s largest transit system, including the appointment of the first woman to hold the most senior position, was unexpectedly questioned by state lawmakers on Wednesday.

Democrat-controlled state Senate leaders have indicated they will not vote on a proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would position Sarah Feinberg, a close ally of Mr. Cuomo, to become the next president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The move was the latest reprimand on Mr Cuomo by members of his own party as the governor tries to overcome several overlapping crises and inquiries that have weakened him politically.

The governor had appointed Ms. Feinberg, 42, on Tuesday to succeed Patrick J. Foye, president and CEO of the authority, which manages New York’s subway and buses and two suburban train lines.

Mr Cuomo’s plan was for Ms Feinberg to share Mr Foye’s duties with Janno Lieber, who would oversee the day-to-day operations of the transit system as the authority’s chief executive.

But dividing the work that way required legislative approval that would have given Mr. Cuomo even greater control over an agency he already has a tight grip on.

As currently structured, the combined roles require confirmation from the Senate, but according to Mr. Cuomo’s proposal, he and future governors would have sole authority to appoint the CEO. The president of the authority would still need the confirmation of the Senate.

Critics of the governor’s decision, including Richard Ravitch, a former president of the authority, saw it as an attempt to institutionalize his power over the MTA

The two roles have been held by different people in the past, but a 2008 commission headed by Mr Ravitch helped spur legislation that merged the roles into one post as part of an effort to restore the independence of the managing director.

The proposal was presented to the Legislature this week, the last week of this year’s legislative session. But when Senate Democrats gathered to discuss it on Tuesday, it quickly became clear that there was not enough support for the bill, said Michael Gianaris, Democrat and Deputy Senate Majority Leader. .

“The governor is attempting a restructuring of the upper echelon of the MTA with very little notice and in such a way that members of the Senate are not comfortable,” Gianaris said. “The idea that we were going to endorse an effort to have even less control and more power-building within the executive is not something that interests us.”

Mr Gianaris said lawmakers raised concerns about the structure of the bill and its timing and even about Ms Feinberg herself. Mr Gianaris said she “has often taken the podium to echo the governor’s attacks and that kind of politicization is not something that interests us”.

He added: “The idea of ​​dropping something like this at the 11th hour and expecting us to approve it is a huge miscalculation.”

Neither the MTA nor Mr. Cuomo’s office immediately responded to requests for comment.

It was not clear whether the Assembly, where Democrats also hold a majority, would vote on the bill.



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