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Daily Point

MTA tries to get on track

Joseph Lhota, who led the Metropolitan Transportation Authority after superstorm Sandy, is back, appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday night to be the authority’s next chairman. The announcement came hours after a marathon MTA board meeting that grew contentious. It was, perhaps, a sign of a new phase for the MTA — one with a board willing to engage, and a chair willing to do what’s hard.

“It was the most lively, substantive, engaged debate that agency has ever had,” said Polly Trottenberg, NYC’s Department of Transportation commissioner. That level of engagement, she said, might shape how the MTA — and Lhota — handle the crisis the MTA faces.

And new board members like developer Scott Rechler didn’t mince words about the situation facing Lhota.

“The system’s in crisis,” Rechler told The Point. “It’s going to be a significant challenge . . . We can’t just focus on short-term fixes and continue to ignore the long-term challenges . . . You’ve got to do both, or we’re going to find ourselves in the same spot.”

Lhota, he said, can do just that. Rechler noted that Lhota was able to “unite” the MTA’s players and constituencies during and after Sandy. Now, he has to take the same regional approach. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Lhota’s skills in a statement released Thursday afternoon that also contained rare praise for Cuomo. The mayor pledged to help the governor, Lhota and the MTA.

But even with Lhota taking the helm, a leadership vacuum below remains. Trottenberg told The Point she hoped there’d still be a role for interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim.

One of Lhota’s first jobs will be to appoint an executive director. Whether Hakim gets the permanent job remains to be seen.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

New York-style 'Repeal and Replace'

The amendment to the House version of “repeal and replace” that would shift the Medicaid burden of New York’s counties entirely to the state made it into the Senate version released Thursday. But even if the monster bill fails, some New York GOP House members have taken other measures to drive the Medicaid shift in New York.

Rep. Lee Zeldin addressed the House of Representatives on Tuesday night in support of the Property Tax Reduction Act, which is identical to an amendment to the American Health Care Act created by Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins, Republicans from upstate New York. Both amendments would relieve New York’s counties other than those in New York City from contributions to Medicaid that amount to about $2.3 billion a year.

It’s a plan that’s generally popular with county elected officials and specifically unpopular with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who in a statement Thursday afternoon called the AHCA Medicaid provisions “disastrous.”

The amendment was added to the House version of the bill as an inducement to get Faso and Collins on board in March, then introduced as a stand-alone bill in April.

Politically, the idea of shifting the county burden to Albany had received hardly any attention before Trumpcare. Now, though, its proponents seem to see it as a principle worth fighting for, with or without “repeal and replace.” But Zeldin also told The Point much of the rationale for pushing the bill on its own is to keep it from falling out of the larger health care legislation during negotiations.

And on that front, Team Faso-Collins has been successful thus far.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

Cure all

Pointing Out

Nassau leg’s rap sheet

With the arraignment Wednesday of Carrié Solages on charges that he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend over missing marijuana in their Valley Stream home, the number of sitting members of the Nassau County Legislature who upended their political careers by getting in trouble with the law increases to four. However, only one, Roger Corbin, was accused of abusing the power of his office for financial gain. All are Democrats.

A fifth male, David Mejias, also a Democrat, had lost a re-election primary in 2009. In years that followed, he became embroiled in domestic relations issues that led to two arrests that were later dismissed.

While no GOP county legislator has been photographed in handcuffs, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves was fined $14,000 for violating state campaign financing laws. After serving 20 years, she has decided not to seek re-election this fall. The four Democrats who ran afoul of the law are:

  • Patrick Williams, who pleaded guilty in 2001 to federal charges that he helped banking clients obtain mortgages by inflating their incomes.
  • Roger Corbin, who was convicted in 2012 on bribery and official misconduct charges connected to a failed redevelopment project in New Cassel.
  • David Denenberg, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to federal charges of cheating a client of his law firm out of $2.3 million.
  • David Mejias, who served from 2003 to 2009 and was arrested in 2014 on charges connected to his former girlfriend and whether he broke into her home and took a bracelet he gave her. Those charges were dropped when the complainant changed her mind. Another case in which he was charged with tailgating a different ex-girlfriend was dismissed in 2011.

Rita Ciolli