Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday tapped Patrick Foye, an official with a long history of public service on Long Island and the state, to serve as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Foye, 56, a Port Washington resident, would replace outgoing executive director Chris Ward. Foye currently serves in Cuomo's cabinet as deputy secretary of economic development. His appointment is subject to approval by the authority board.

"The Port Authority must meet its potential as a major economic engine that plans for the region and attracts business on an international scale," Cuomo said in a news release.

An administration source said Foye would be paid 95 percent of Ward's salary, which would put it at $289,657.

The bi-state agency operates mass transit, bridges, tunnels and major airports in the metropolitan area, and owns the World Trade Center site, which it is rebuilding with Silverstein Properties. The authority has sizable operating and capital budgets, respectively totaling $3.3 billion and $3.9 billion in 2011.

Foye served as the downstate head of the Empire State Development Corp. under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, as well as on the boards of the Long Island Power Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He also was president and chief executive of the United Way of Long Island.

Foye left the ESDC in 2008 to join the Uniondale-based law firm Rivkin Radler LLP, where Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was then "of counsel." He followed Mangano into his administration in 2010, but resigned earlier this year in protest over the county executive's ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge to the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority's imposition of a control period.

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Foye's appointment drew wide praise in political, business, construction, union and transportation circles.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called him a talented leader "committed to building and maintaining the infrastructure that we must have to keep New York City and the region the pre-eminent center of economic activity in the nation."

"Pat's style is one that the business community really appreciates," said Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City. "He's direct, he's honest and he doesn't play politics."

With much of the heavy lifting done at the World Trade Center site, the challenges confronting Foye will be different from those his predecessor faced.

"He's been handed a fairly strong hand [at the World Trade Center], but it's by no means finished," said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. "Secondly, all of the region's airports need serious investment and attention. And third, the trans-Hudson transportation needs of the bi-state region are enormous."

Cuomo also called for two subsidiaries of the ESDC to be absorbed into the Port Authority: Moynihan Station Development Corporation and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The merger would require approval by the Port Authority board. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's press office declined to comment on the proposal.