(The Center Square) – With just hours left in the New York Legislature’s 2021 session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to be in the process of working out a deal with lawmakers to restructure the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
NY1 reported Thursday that legislative Democrats and the embattled governor reached an agreement that involves both the MTA and a criminal justice reform measure.
It comes a day after the state Senate rejected a plan by Cuomo to split the authority’s board chair and CEO positions. However, NY1 reported due to technical errors in the Clean Slate legislation, lawmakers need the governor to approve a “message of necessity” to waive the three-day requirement before bills can be passed.
The new deal would still allow a split of the MTA positions, but it would require senators to approve both.
Cuomo nominated Sarah Feinberg to serve as chair and announced Janno Leiber to serve as the CEO. They would replace Pay Foye, who is scheduled to take over as interim president and CEO of Empire State Development on July 30.
Lieber currently serves as the chief development officer for the agency. Feinberg, who served as the administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration under former President Barack Obama, is the interim president of New York City Transit and a former MTA Board member.
The report of a last-minute deal drew concerns from Reinvent Albany, an organization that seeks greater transparency from state government.
It along with eight other groups issued a statement Wednesday objecting to splitting the leadership positions, saying it would erase more than a decade of reforms regarding agency oversight.
On Thursday, the organization implored lawmakers not to go back to the “bad old Albany days” of quid pro quo and scant public involvement.
“The MTA has been suffering from a dire crisis of public confidence since Governor Cuomo politicized the authority and undertook a confusing and sporadic transformation plan,” Reinvent Albany said in its statement. “The legislature should not approve last-minute, backroom changes to the MTA governance structure.”
The new deal would still allow Cuomo to appoint Feinberg and Leiber, but the Senate would have confirmation powers over both, NY1 reported.
Others still oppose the move, including John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union. In a series of tweets Thursday, he described the maneuvering as a “last minute bums’ rush.”
He said there was no reason for the change.
“We are rapidly emerging from the pandemic crisis and can’t afford any potentially disruptive changes right now,” Samuelsen tweeted. "Why rush this through so hastily?”