ALBANY, N.Y. — Joseph Lhota, who oversaw the New York City subway system during the recovery from Superstorm Sandy’s devastation, is returning to again lead the nation’s largest public transit agency.
The state Senate late Wednesday night approved Lhota as chairman of the troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated the 62-year-old Republican for the job. The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed Lhota’s nomination after he appeared at a committee hearing via Skype before the Legislature adjourned for the summer.
“I am as frustrated as everyone else is and more frustrated because I know the MTA can do so much better,” Lhota said during the hearing.
Lhota returns to the leadership post at the MTA, where he served as chairman and CEO from October 2011 to December 2012. He resigned for an unsuccessful run for New York City mayor, losing to Democrat Bill de Blasio.
“It has nothing to do with politics,” de Blasio responded when asked Thursday on WNYC radio if Lhota’s appointment was a political move. “Joe Lhota and I ran against each other but I have a lot of respect for him.”
Cuomo said Lhota’s salary will be $1 per year, and he’ll delegate the CEO duties to a permanent executive director. Lhota will continue serving as senior vice president, vice dean and chief of staff at Manhattan-based NYU Langone Medical Center, the governor said.
“Joe Lhota is a tested and experienced leader with the proven track record needed to address the enormous challenges facing the nation’s largest mass transportation system,” Cuomo said.
Lhota takes over an aging subway and commuter train system reeling from a series of recent service problems, including malfunctioning signals, prolonged backups and passengers stuck in dark, sweltering cars.
Lhota, a top aide during Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration, received praise for his handling of the recovery from the devastation caused by Sandy in October 2012, when the subway system sustained $5 billion in damage.
The position has been vacant since MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast retired in January.