David Mack represents Nassau County on the MTA board.

David Mack represents Nassau County on the MTA board. Credit: Patrick McCarthy

When real estate executive and philanthropist David Mack rejoined the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board in 2019, the Newsday editorial board had concerns.

“Mack’s political ties and controversial history don’t suggest he is the ideal candidate to be Nassau’s voice,” the board wrote. “To be credible, Mack, 77, will have to put the needs of LIRR riders above his own political relationships and his ego.”

Mack, unfortunately, has done the opposite.

Mack served on the MTA board from 1993 until 2009, when he resigned after refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the state police. Every Nassau County executive since Thomas Gulotta made Mack their MTA board pick, although former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo rejected him at times. But former County Executive Laura Curran’s recommendation led Cuomo to reappoint him in 2019. Current County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Gov. Kathy Hochul followed suit.

Mack has given thousands of dollars to those county executives and others. He notes as a strength his “access to friends in government,” but it’s access he bought. And he hasn’t used that power to advocate substantively for the region’s public transit system. He rarely speaks up publicly and at times hasn’t participated in working groups of which he is a member. When Long Island Rail Road riders have needed his voice, he has mostly been silent.

Where he does act, it’s for the good of Mack — and his “friends.” Last month, Mack barged into MTA Chief Executive Janno Lieber’s office, then engaged in a combative argument others witnessed. He wasn’t fighting for Port Washington branch schedules, electrification of the diesel fleet, or using MTA properties for new development. Instead, he was angry about the removal of police placards that provided parking privileges for him and other board members.

The incident was a marked exception to the board’s increasingly professional membership, which often is responsible for monumental decisions. And it was reminiscent of indulgent behavior beyond board business: When COVID-19 vaccines were hard to find, Mack allegedly arranged for wealthy friends to get shots at the Florida nursing home whose board he vice-chaired; the institution paid a $1.75 million fine to settle a Justice Department investigation.

The MTA is at a critical moment. It’s heading toward a so-called “fiscal cliff,” and the LIRR has big needs. That requires MTA representatives who are thoughtful and innovative and put the good of the region first. That’s not Mack.

Blakeman still supports Mack. But Blakeman, Hochul and local state senators who’ve backed Mack should publicly break with a man derelict in his duties, who does not represent them well. State law indicates Hochul could remove an MTA board member for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, breach of fiduciary duty or misconduct in office.” Absent an unlikely change in Mack’s demeanor and commitment, Hochul should take steps to remove him.

Nassau County and Long Island deserve better.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months