Jay Walder, the Rockaway native who grew up riding the Long Island Rail Road and subways, was confirmed Thursday as the new leader of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority - marking a new chapter for the nation's largest public transportation system as it continues to face unprecedented fiscal challenges.
By a vote of 47-13, the state Senate approved Walder, a former financial executive for the MTA and for London's transit system, as the agency's new executive director, chief executive officer and chairman.
"We welcome you and we look forward to you being successful," said the Senate's temporary president, Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), as he looked up from the Senate chamber floor to Walder, who sat in the balcony gallery surrounded by family members.
Walder was nominated by Gov. David A. Paterson following the resignation of former MTA chief Elliot Sander, who left shortly after the State Legislature bailed the MTA out of a $1.8-billion operating deficit this year.
The no votes came exclusively from Republican senators - many of whom said that while Walder's resume is impressive, he has not offered enough specifics on how he would change the MTA's reputation for waste and for offering customers little value for their ever-increasing fares, tolls and dedicated taxes.
"In our discussions, in our hearings, we don't get much information. I find that troubling," said Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), who was discouraged by Walder's support of a new employer payroll tax that is the foundation of the MTA bailout. "Mr. Walder, your job is cut out for you. You didn't create the problem, but we look to you for the solution."
At hearings Thursday, legislators pressed Walder for his view on specific issues facing the MTA, including the prospect of congestion pricing, tolls on East River bridges, and an arbitrator's ruling awarding transit workers raises that could force further fare hikes next year.
Walder, who has not lived in New York for 14 years, said he would address specific issues once he is already on the job and has a chance to become more educated on them.