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Metro-North president given $98K bonus

MTA Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut, right, waits

MTA Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut, right, waits for a train, Manhattan bound, at the Tarrytown train station. (Dec. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

Metro-North President Howard Permut scored a nearly $100,000 bonus payout in 2012 at a time when the commuter rail's cash-strapped parent agency is about to implement fare hikes and is pushing its workforce to accept 0 percent wage increases.

Permut received a $98,000 bonus in December after agreeing to forgo a raise for four years while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metro-North's parent company, was struggling to balance its budget, agency officials said Wednesday. This was on top of his $215,000 salary.

In 2013, Permut, 61, will make a base salary of $243,000 running the nation's busiest commuter rail, making him among the highest-paid executives at the MTA. It wasn't immediately clear how much of a bonus he is line for in 2013.

Former MTA chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota signed off on the one-time payout in late December shortly after announcing he was resigning to consider a run for the Republican nomination for mayor of New York City.

The bonus covered the period from 2009 to 2012, when Permut and several other high-ranking MTA execs agreed to then-MTA head Eliot Sander's request to delay payment of raises stipulated in their contracts, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said.

"It's contractually what they were owed," Lisberg said.

Permut made $215,000 in 2009 and was owed a $14,000 raise. For the next three years, he was owed annual raises of $28,000 per year, Lisberg said.

Also receiving bonuses in December were Michael Horodniceanu, the MTA's capital construction president, and Helena Williams, the president of the Long Island Rail Road.

Williams, whose annual salary also is $243,000, received a $56,000 payout, and Horodniceanu got $61,000, according to MTA officials.

Since taking over as Metro-North head in 2008, Permut has presided over near-record increases in ridership. He was also among the first executives hired when Metro-North was created 30 years ago. His background in planning has led him to spearhead efforts to increase ridership by expanding the number of trains available for reverse commutes into the Hudson Valley and during off-peak hours.

Meanwhile, rank-and-file members of Metro-North's largest union -- the Association of Commuter Rail Employees -- in January refused to ratify a labor agreement that called for two years of 0 percent wage increases, followed by a total of 10 percent in raises during the next four years.

The MTA is seeking similar labor deals for its subway, bus and commuter rail employees.

ACRE was the first of MTA's labor unions to put up for a vote an agreement its leadership struck with agency officials. The rejection was cheered by leaders of other MTA labor unions, unhappy with being forced to agree to 0 zero percent increases.

"I'm pleased that the president got his money," said Chris Silvera, the secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 808. "Now it's time for the MTA to make sure its workers are paid. No matter how good your plan is we're the ones who execute the plan."

Silver's local, which represents 600 Metro-North track and buildings department workers, has been working without a contract since July 2010.

As for riders, the cost of a Metro-North ticket will increase as much as 16.7 percent on some routes beginning in March as the MTA seeks 7.5 percent revenue hikes from each of its bus, subway and rail systems.

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