NEW YORK (WABC) -- The embattled president the Long Island Rail Road is resigning, effective Friday, after a tenuous and troubled four-year tenure.
When a reporter asked MTA Chairman Joe Lhota if he was firing LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski in January, Lhota answered, "Not at this time." Three months later, things have changed.
During the 64-year-old Nowakowski's time at the helm, the agency has been bombarded with complaints about service delays and poor communication. January 2018 was its worst January since 1996 for on-time performance, and a recent scathing report showed the LIRR in 2017 had the lowest number of on-time trains in 18 years.
"I thank Pat for his service to LIRR customers and his steady and evenhanded leadership of the railroad at a time when external events caused challenges for the railroad, particularly Amtrak's renewal of tracks and infrastructure at Penn Station that the entire LIRR depends on," Lhota said in a statement.
Nowakowski released a statement Thursday announcing his resignation, stating: "I decided that now was a good time to step aside, and allow new leadership to continue the progress we've begun to make on improving customer service."
He will be replaced by the agency's Chief Operating Officer Phillip Eng.
Earlier this year, Nowakowski unveiled a comprehensive plan to fix failing infrastructure and improve service and communication. It included plans to increase track inspections and add more snow removal equipment, third rail heaters and switch covers.
It also called for new train countdown clocks at suburban stations and fewer automated platform messages. Rather, the agency would enable its trained staff to tailor their own messages to passengers.
The plan was estimated to cost $20 million to implement and is now in limbo.
Before moving to New York, Nowakowski led the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project, a plan to build 23 miles of track, providing rail service between Washington, D.C. and Dulles International Airport.
Previously, he spent 27 years with SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
Eng first joined the MTA in March 2017 when he was appointed COO, where he was responsible for leading major initiatives across all of the MTA's agencies with a focus on innovation and technology while maintaining and improving safety and reliability. From October 2017 to January 2018, Eng concurrently held the position of Acting President at New York City Transit.
"Phil has shown exceptional leadership and dedication during his time at the MTA, and I know he will bring his enthusiasm for developing a world-class transportation system to the LIRR," Lhota said. "With 35 years of experience in the New York transportation sector, I couldn't imagine anyone better suited for this position at this crucial time as we work toward creating a robust future for the commuter rail."
Before joining the MTA, Eng started his career in public service at New York State Department of Transportation in 1983 as a Junior Engineer. He gained expertise while working his way up from Construction Supervisor, to Director of Operations, to Regional Director of the Department's New York City office and Chief Engineer, until his final post there as Executive Deputy Commissioner.
A graduate of Cooper Union, Eng earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree and is a licensed professional engineer in New York State, and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
He was born and raised on Long Island. He grew up in Williston Park, moved to Mineola as his first residence, and now resides in Smithtown with his wife, Carole, and their two sons and twin daughters.
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LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski resigns, COO Phillip Eng named successor