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Guv names former city budget director to head cash-strapped MTA

Joseph Lhota

Joseph Lhota

Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked former deputy mayor Joseph Lhota on Thursday to head the MTA after a months-long search.

"Joe Lhota brings one-of-a-kind managerial, government, and private sector experience to the job and a lifelong commitment to public service that will benefit all straphangers,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lhota — a former city budget director and deputy mayor under Mayor Rudy Giuliani — is replacing Jay Walder, who abruptly resigned in July to take a job in Hong Kong. Walder’s last day is Friday.

Lhota, of Brooklyn, and currently an executive for Madison Square Garden, promised fiscal responsibility.

“Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have initiated reforms that are performance-based and that cut costs,” Lhota, 57, said in a statement, “and I look forward to bringing this same approach to the MTA.”

He and the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Nuria Fernandez, will be charged with leading the cash-strapped transit agency through a multi-billion dollar budget gap as it plans to borrow billions more.

Cuomo’s decision to tap Lhota a day after naming his economic deputy Pat Foye to lead the Port Authority is a sign that he values balanced books over transit experience. Aside from a year-and-a-half on the MTA’s board more than a decade ago, Lhota has little — if any — experience with mass transit.

Richard Ravitch, a former MTA chief who was on the search committee to replace Walder, called Lhota an “ideal candidate,” adding he “can think of no one better suited to this critical position."

Lhota’s appointment requires confirmation by the state Senate, which is expected in January. The governor anticipates he’ll be named interim head before then, but MTA Vice Chair Andrew Saul will serve as acting head in the meantime.

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