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Deal falls apart for Cuomo's plan to change MTA leadership

A deal between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and

A deal between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state Legislature to change the management structure of the MTA fell apart Thursday night. Credit: Sipa USA via AP / Lev Radin

ALBANY — A compromise on changing the management structure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fell apart Thursday just hours after it was reached, dealing a temporary defeat to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cuomo and the State Legislature had reached an agreement earlier Thursday that would have allowed the governor to go through with his plan to separate the roles of MTA chair and CEO, as long as the nominee for each post was subject to state Senate confirmation.

Multiple sources said the Senate and Assembly planned on approving it late Thursday, the final day of the 2021 legislative session.

But by 9 p.m., the deal had unraveled, in part because its approval was linked to other last-minute bills. Sources said this might prove to be a temporary setback — the Legislature could reconvene after the June 22 political primaries to approve the MTA bill and confirm new appointees, sources said.

That capped a tumultuous 24 hours of debate on how the MTA leadership will be structured going forward.

On Wednesday, the Senate said it would block MTA legislation submitted by Cuomo, in part because he had submitted it too late.

Under the governor’s original proposal, the posts of Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive and board chair would have been separated, changing how the transit authority has operated for most of its history.

Sarah Feinberg, interim head of New York City Transit, would have become the chairwoman, replacing Patrick Foye, who has been chairman and CEO.

Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief development officer, would have become CEO, handling day-to-day operations.

Foye, a longtime Cuomo ally, would have moved to the state’s economic-development agency.

Leaders of the Democrat-controlled Senate said they wouldn’t approve the legislation necessary for the management change.

Cuomo, the leaders complained, had submitted the proposal just days before the scheduled legislative adjournment — too late for consideration of such a major policy change.

Some senators also expressed concern that Feinberg had echoed Cuomo’s criticism of safety on the subways as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Senators also complained about the fact that Feinberg has made statements about the mayoral election campaign.

But the Cuomo administration has agreed to amend the original proposal to make both the chair and CEO subject to Senate confirmation, clearing the way for its passage, legislative sources said.

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