They weren’t showering him with champagne, but MTA board members did pour praise on outgoing chairman and “transit rock star” Jay Walder after his final meeting Wednesday.
Transit committee chair Mark Lebow called Walder “the best transportation operator on the planet,” and board member Alan Cappelli, who leads the bridges and tunnels committee and came up with the “rock star” title, suggested Walder could have become mayor if he wanted the job. (A laughing Walder quickly shot down the idea)
Walder, 52, will vacate his job on Oct. 21 after two years at the helm for a private sector transit gig in Hong Kong. He continued the love-fest by returning the compliments to transit employees, while offering his yet-to-be-named successor some advice.
“Nothing happens at the MTA because a person in the corner office at 347 Madison Avenue says it should happen,” Walder said at the conclusion of yesterday’s board meeting. “Things happen at the MTA because 67,000 dedicated men and women make it happen.”
“My advice to my successor is to throw yourself into this place, to really find a way to marshal the power of all of the men and women across the MTA,” he added.
The Rockaway native Walder said he was proud of the accomplishments made during his tenure, including the subway countdown clocks, Second Avenue subway construction progress and, most recently, the launching of underground cell phone service.
His only regret was having to cope with the cash-strapped agency’s economic woes that resulted in a fare hike and severe service cuts.
“I wish we could have done more to be able to improve services,” Walder said, adding, “You have to play the hand your dealt.”
“In a different world, in a different way, all of the attention, all of the energy would have gone into improving services,” Walder said, “and that would’ve been great.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office did not return calls to comment on when he would name a new MTA head.