Sarah Feinberg leaving MTA after legislature fails to approve leadership changes

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Without an agreement in the New York State Legislature to keep her on, Interim NYC Transit Authority President Sarah Feinberg is leaving the MTA at the end of day Friday, part of a shakeup at the top of the transportation agency.

Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to transition Feinberg to chair of the MTA, splitting the chairman and CEO positions currently held by Pat Foye.

But the arrangement met resistance in the state legislature, which needed to approve it.

"I'm waiting to hear some convincing evidence of why it's a good idea to split the position because we've had a unified position for a long time, many years," said MTA board member Andrew Albert.

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Interim Transit Authority President Sarah Feinberg spoke with N.J. Burkett while riding on the subway.


Feinberg still hopes the Senate changes state law to allow the governor to split the jobs, so she can continue to serve as chair of the MTA Board while Janno Lieber can be named CEO.

"Have a CEO who manages the day to day and then have a board chair, who oversees the board who directs the board who helps make big policy decisions," Feinberg said.

But until then, she has reached the end of her line.

Feinberg said the NYC Transit job, which she has held on a temporary basis since February 2020, has cut severely into her time with her family.

"You are not serving New Yorkers well unless you are on call 24/7 and you are owning every rush hour, owning every signal delay and paying attention to every project, and thinking constantly about how you can make sure that customers, riders and your workforce are safe," she said.

Feinberg, who has a 3-year-old daughter, said the MTA chair role would allow her "to continue to serve New York...but also be able to live my life in a way that allows me to be the kind of parent and partner that I also need to be."

Foye will be leaving the MTA either way on Friday to become the interim chief of the Empire State Development Corporation.

If there is no last minute agreement to keep Feinberg on, Lieber, who is the current MTA construction chief, will be named acting MTA Board Chair and CEO.

"Our public transportation systems will be the backbone of New York's comeback as more and more people return to work in-person," Cuomo said. "Janno knows what it takes to make the MTA work for the millions of customers who rely on this system every day to get to their destination, and he will serve as Acting Board Chair and CEO. I thank him for his devoted service and the role he played in managing a wide-range of transformative projects across the MTA system and for keeping capital projects moving safely during the COVID-19 public health crisis. But at this critical time in state history, I believe the best long-term approach to leading the MTA would be to have two strong, experienced leaders at the helm - Sarah Feinberg as the first woman Chair and Janno Lieber as CEO. While the Senate has yet to act, the MTA nominees and leaders continue to be available for policy discussions and confirmation hearings, as they have been since the legislation was introduced nearly two months ago."

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NJ Burkett has more on the major MTA shakeup, with the announcement that Sarah Feinberg will replace Pat Foye as head of the New York City transit system.


Feinberg and Foye led the MTA through its worst crisis in decades, as the pandemic caused subway ridership to plunge more than 90%.

NYC Transit is part of the MTA, which also runs commuter rail lines, bridges and tunnels.

Prior to leading NYC Transit, Feinberg headed the Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates railroads.

Lieber is currently President of MTA Construction & Development, an 1,800-person organization he built from the ground up.

"I am excited to get to work leading the MTA's continued recovery from the pandemic, though I am disappointed I won't yet be working alongside my supremely qualified friend Sarah Feinberg," he said. "We are still counting on the Senate to act on the governor's proposal and approve her historic nomination as the MTA's first woman chair. In the meantime, I thank the governor for the opportunity to serve New Yorkers and support the region's ongoing revival."

Lieber oversaw the approval of the groundbreaking $51.5 billion 2020-2024 Capital Program and successfully managed the on-time and on-budget completion of the L Train Tunnel Project, the Long Island Rail Road Double Track, the historic completion of 11 ADA stations in 2020 despite the COVID-19 public health crisis, and the rehabilitation of the F-line Rutgers Tube in record time - the last of the Superstorm Sandy-damaged subway tunnels.

His portfolio includes ongoing megaprojects like East Side Access, the $2.5 Billion LIRR Third Track project, Metro-North Penn Access (which will add four new stations in the East Bronx), Penn Station reconstruction and expansion, and Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway, which will extend the line through East and Central Harlem.

Lieber also helped spearhead the agency's successful efforts to secure $14 billion from the federal government in the face of the pandemic-induced financial crisis.

Prior to his work at MTA, Lieber served as President of World Trade Center Properties for 14 years, where he managed the multi-billion-dollar development of Silverstein Properties' projects at the World Trade Center. Before that, Lieber headed public-private development at Lawrence Ruben Company, and, as a consultant, worked with clients such as Chicago Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit, and Penn Station Redevelopment Corp. - the agency then responsible for the Moynihan Train Hall project.

During the Clinton Administration, Lieber served as Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Earlier in his career, Lieber practiced law at the New York firm of Patterson, Belknap Webb & Tyler and served as a transportation policy advisor in the office of New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

Lieber is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law School.

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