Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and chief executive Joseph Lhota plans to announce Friday he is stepping down to run for New York City mayor as a Republican, a state government source said Tuesday.
Lhota, who was deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, has been lauded for leading the restoration of the region's transit system after superstorm Sandy.
He was appointed to the MTA post Jan. 4, at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's recommendation. His term was to expire in June 2015. By law Lhota cannot run for mayor -- a race to be decided in November -- while holding the chairman position.
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg declined to comment, directing questions to Lhota, who could not be reached last night.
The source said Lhota will finish out the year with the MTA. Lhota, 58, lives in Brooklyn Heights, grew up in Lindenhurst and graduated from St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Business School.
A former investment banker, Lhota made a name for himself in city politics working under Giuliani, first as city budget director and later as deputy mayor of operations. Giuliani has said Lhota was his right-hand man in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Lhota was previously executive vice president of administration for The Madison Square Garden Co.
Talk of Lhota's interest in running for mayor grew louder in the days after Sandy, when he was praised for his hands-on approach in leading the nation's largest public transportation agency through the worst natural disaster it had seen.
"I thought Joe Lhota had been on a roll," he said. "He did a great job during his [tenure], especially during Sandy."
John Samuelsen, president of TWU Local 100, the largest union for city transit workers, said Lhota's profile was raised by the workers who restored the system, "yet he leaves without having settled a fair contract with the workers who propelled him to this level."
New York City Transit president Thomas F. Prendergast will work double duty taking over day-to-day operations of the MTA until a new MTA chief is appointed, the source said. MTA board member and former mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer will act as MTA chairman at meetings.
A crowded field of rumored contenders to replace three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg has included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu, all Democrats.
The only two candidates to formally enter the race are Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, who's running as a Republican; and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a Democrat who lost to Bloomberg in the 2009 election.
Craig Eaton, Brooklyn Republican chairman, said he is still "very bullish" on Adolfo Carrion Jr., the former Bronx borough president, but added that if Lhota runs, "we will take a serious hard look" at him.
Queens County Republican chairman Phil Ragusa said he still favors John Catsimatidis, if the grocery magnate joins the race. He offered that Lhota "would probably be a good candidate." Manhattan GOP chairman Dan Isaacs declined to comment, saying he hadn't spoken to Lhota.
With Yancey Roy, Marc Beja
and Ivan Pereira