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Cuomo to MTA: 'No more excuses, politics, drama'

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on July 2.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on July 2. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday expressed skepticism about the MTA’s ability to execute its recently unveiled reorganization plan, noting that the agency’s bureaucracy could get in the way.

In a letter to the MTA’s Board of Directors, Cuomo said a consultant’s proposal released last week to transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including merging 40 groups into six departments — “will only be accomplished over the resistance of the bureaucracy” that perennially has hamstrung the transit agency.

“While some additional financial resources will continue and state officials will still be assisting, the MTA management must now be completely engaged,” Cuomo wrote. “The burden now shifts to the MTA to actually institute effective management systems and perform the tasks that they have previously failed to execute.”

An MTA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cuomo's letter.

On Friday, the MTA released preliminary details of the plan, developed by Manhattan-based management consulting firm AlixPartners, to transform the MTA “into a cost-effective, high-performing agency that the riders and taxpayers demand and deserve.”

The proposal called for the creation of several new upper-management positions that would be responsible for key functions — including communications, accessibility and capital projects — in order to allow leadership at the MTA’s various agencies, including the Long Island Rail Road, to focus on its day-to-day operations and maintenance.

But Cuomo raised several concerns about the MTA’s ability to execute the plan. He noted “the MTA has an extraordinarily poor record in hiring new talent” and has yet to complete several other initiatives launched in recent months, including to address problems with fare evasion and with inadequate time and attendance procedures for employees, including at the LIRR.

“The main focus of the Reorganization Plan is on basic operational management systems. This is not rocket science, but rather basic execution and implementation. However, the MTA's chronic failure is its inability to manage and execute effectively,” Cuomo wrote. “There are no more excuses, politics, drama, scapegoats or tolerance for nonperformance. Either the management completes its tasks or it will have failed its public duty.”

The MTA Board is expected to vote on the plan next Wednesday.

MTA Board member Kevin Law, who represents Suffolk County, on Tuesday expressed optimism about the plan.

“I think it makes sense to consolidate a lot of similar functions that each agency has to allow those agencies to concentrate on their core mission of providing reliable, safe service to their commuters,” Law said. “I think commuters and taxpayers should all want the MTA to be structured in a way that is the most efficient.”

Cuomo also called for the MTA’s plan to include specific completion dates and performance measures for its various initiatives, and to be expanded to address the growing number of homeless people in the transit system. Law said he agreed with Cuomo, and that any effort to address homelessness should include LIRR stations.

Assemb. Michael LiPetri (R-Massapequa), who has pushed the LIRR to better address issues of homelessness and accessibility at its stations, on Tuesday said the MTA’s planned reorganization could be an opportunity to advance those goals, including through funding for increased police presence at LIRR stations and mental health resources for the homeless.

“Any time there is a change, there’s always an opportunity to ask for increased attention to homelessness across Long Island, as well as police presence, where those in Nassau and Suffolk County get the additional resources to fully staff the LIRR stations across Long Island,” LiPetri said. “That’s just one of many additional factors that are necessary.”

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