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MTA chief Joe Lhota to resign Friday to pursue mayoral bid: Source

Mayoral candidate and former MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota

Mayoral candidate and former MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota Credit: Charles Eckert

Updated  8:49 p.m. MTA chief Joe Lhota plans to announce Friday he is stepping down to run for New York City mayor as a Republican, a state government source said Tuesday.

Lhota, who was deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, has been lauded for leading the restoration of the transit system after Superstorm Sandy.

He was appointed to the MTA post Jan. 4, at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's recommendation. His term was to expire June 2015.

By law, Lhota cannot run for mayor while holding the chairman position.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg declined to comment. Lhota did not answer a phone call.

The source said Lhota will finish the year with the MTA.

Lhota, 58, lives in Brooklyn Heights, grew up in Lindenhurst and graduated from St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. A former investment banker, Lhota worked under Giuliani as city budget director and later as deputy mayor of operations.

Lhota was executive vice president of administration for the Madison Square Garden Co., a division of Cablevision, which also owns Newsday Media Group, which owns amNY.

Straphangers Campaign staff lawyer Gene Russianoff said he had heard the rumors about Lhota's resignation, but was surprised they turned out to be true: "I thought Joe Lhota had been on a roll. He did a great job during his [tenure], especially during Sandy."

John Samuelsen, president of TWU Local 100, the largest union for city transit workers, said Lhota was a "more decent human being than [predecessor Jay] Walder," but that there wasn't a "whole lots of differences in their policies."

"Transit workers raised his profile to the point where he is a potential mayoral candidate by restoring the transit system after the storm, yet he leaves without having settled a fair contract with the workers who propelled him to this level," Samuelsen said.

Whispers of Lhota's interest in Giuliani's old job grew louder in the days following Sandy, when he was widely praised for his hands-on approach in leading the nation's largest public transportation agency through the worst natural disaster it had seen.

New York City Transit president Thomas F. Prendergast will also run day-to-day operations of the MTA until a new MTA chief is appointed, and MTA Board member and former mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer will act as MTA chairman at meetings, the source said.

Rumored contenders to replace three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg have included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu.

The only two candidates to formally enter the race are Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson.

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