Adding capacity on the Long Island Rail Road will be a key goal for new MTA President Pat Foye, whose hiring was announced Thursday as part of a leadership shake-up at the beleaguered agency.
After days of speculation surrounding Metropolitan Transportation Authority management, Foye of Port Washington is swiftly transitioning this week to the agency from his prior post as Port Authority executive director.
In a Newsday phone interview Thursday after his final authority board meeting, Foye spoke about his transit perspectives as someone who grew up in New York City and now lives on Long Island.
“I’m a Long Island Rail Road commuter, and I have a ticket in my pocket as we speak. I also have a MetroCard in my pocket,” said Foye, 60. “So the condition of the subways and the Long Island Rail Road are a real institutional concern and a personal concern for me and my family.”
He heaped praise on his new boss, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, and his new colleague, Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, the MTA’s managing director, both of whom he had dealt with in the past, either at the Port Authority or as a MTA board member.
Lhota announced Foye’s hiring Thursday as part of a management shake-up at the agency. Lhota will create an “office of the chairman” at the MTA, under which Foye, Hakim and Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief development officer leading capital projects, will work.
Foye will be tasked with leading innovation and modernization initiatives. He said his first priority is “working closely together” with Hakim and Lhota to implement the chairman’s $800 million subway action plan, an expansive, yet-to-be-funded attempt to address the subways’ soaring delays, primarily through the hiring of 2,700 new workers.
Beyond the subways, “the MTA has to take a new look” at how it finances and delivers large projects, said Foye, who comes to the agency in the middle of what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has dubbed the “summer of hell” because of projected LIRR service disruptions due to Penn Station repair work. Foye said he believes it’s not too late to explore a design-build option for East Side Access, the $10.2 billion project to bring the LIRR into Grand Central Terminal that has been plagued by years of delays and cost overruns.
“[East Side Access] provides resiliency and redundancy,” Foye said. “I think from the Long Island-centric point of view, it’s a very positive thing for Long Island housing prices, employment on Long Island and reducing the risk of delays.”
He also championed the LIRR’s third track expansion in Nassau and the double track project in Suffolk.
“Each of them, individually and collectively, are important, critical projects that need to be done,” he said, adding that they were “hugely positive and beneficial.”
Foye had served the Port Authority since 2011 and played a key role in blowing the whistle on the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, known as Bridgegate, which took place over the course of four days in September 2013.
Lhota, who was appointed chairman this June, has kept his day job as an executive at NYU Langone Medical Center. The chairman reasoned that he would need to bring on Foye to help with his workload.
Some advocates and transit experts met the news of Foye’s hiring with slight skepticism, but ultimately said they believe Lhota has successfully created a clear vision for improvements and accountability at the agency that had been lacking for years.
“We certainly hope there are not too many cooks in the kitchen, but it remains to be seen,” said Jaqi Cohen of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “The main concern is what is actually being done to fix our transit system. And Lhota has presented some good ideas.”