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Cuomo’s $ 4 million MTA job cut effort derailed due to subway and bus shortages

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The so-called MTA transformation plan championed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo is being revamped, THE CITY has learned.

The $ 4 million plan, whose recommendations drawn up by consultants called for the elimination of 2,700 posts by the end of last year, will now complete the consolidation of administrative posts “by the end of October”, he said. writes MTA Interim President and CEO Janno Lieber. Friday in an internal note obtained by LA VILLE.

Now, the Transformation Management Office will barely survive Cuomo, who resigned last month over allegations of sexual harassment and was replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Governor Kathy Hochul and MTA Acting CEO Janno Lieber examine storm damage on Long Island on September 2, 2021.
Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of the Governor

The effort to cut costs and jobs at the MTA has been largely hampered by the pandemic and has been mocked by union leaders and some board members – including one who called it ‘sort of nothing You’re welcome “.

Instead, the mandate to cut thousands of jobs at MTA by the end of 2020 was accomplished by a flood of retirements and a hiring freeze that forced transit officials to scramble to fill. staff shortages.

The lack of public transport workers has caused an increase in cancellations of metro and bus trips which could increase, with the number of daily riders expected to increase with this week’s start to school and the return of city workers to the office. .

“It’s almost impossible to separate the effects of COVID in the workplace from the real plan,” said Rachael Fauss, senior research analyst at Reinvent Albany.

Lieber’s memo cites some of the goals accomplished by the Transformation Management Office, including bridging “strategic and core support functions across the MTA” and laying “a foundation for central services to better serve them. agency operations and, ultimately, our clients ”.

“You managed to do all of this during a period of significant uncertainty, given the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lieber wrote. “Thank you for a job well done. “

Pushed Train Daddy Off Track

The transformation plan also contributed to the January 2020 resignation of popular transit chief Andy Byford, who wrote in his exit letter that centralizing projects had left agency chairmen “to focus only on operation. daily service “.

Byford – who clashed several times with Cuomo during his two years at the MTA even as his popularity among runners earned him the affectionate nickname “Train Daddy” – declined to comment on Monday when he was contacted by THE CITY.

New York City Transit President Andy Byford announces the Bronx bus redesign on October 22, 2019.

Andy Byford was affectionately known as “Train Daddy” by his New York fans.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Cuomo had called for the cost-cutting overhaul in 2019, ridiculing the agency he controlled as “a shame” and “a government Frankenstein.”

But with Cuomo’s exit and Lieber’s takeover of the transit agency in July, the much-vaunted metamorphosis found itself without a boss.

Larry Schwartz, MTA board member and longtime Cuomo confidant, said in February 2020 that the transformation plan was necessary to “restore confidence and credibility with the equestrian public.”

“This agency has a history and has been plagued by inefficiencies, fraud, waste, abuse, delays and cost overruns,” he said, weeks before the pandemic sank the MTA’s goodwill and finances. “And the premise of this thing, which was initiated by the governor and put forward, was to change the paradigm.”

Schwartz, whose future on the board is unclear now as the governor of Hochul, declined to comment on Monday.

Plan ridiculed as “waste”

Lieber’s memo to senior agency officials states that “the focus of our transformation work is shifting to your newly consolidated organizations,” and notes that Transformation Management Office staff will be deployed in the MTA “to support you and your assistants in this endeavor ”.

The memo does not mention Anthony McCord, the Canadian business executive hired at $ 325,600 per year to serve as MTA’s transformation director.

McCord and Mario Peloquin – a Canadian transit veteran who resigned in February, just a year after being appointed by Cuomo to be MTA’s chief operating officer – were among several senior executives hired under the plan overhaul.

Other hires included heads of technology, purchasing, a “human resources manager” and an “innovation manager”.

John samuelsen

MTA union leader John Samuelsen
José Martinez / THE CITY

“Talk to the MTA about waste,” John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union and member of the MTA board of directors, told THE TOWN. “They have hired so many bosses as part of this transformation.”

A source said that the MTA’s executive leadership structure will be reassessed as part of Lieber’s efforts to “further professionalize” the agency’s leadership ranks.

The Cuomo-led transformation plan, which was featured in a 37-page report by consulting firm AlixPartners, has come under heavy criticism from union leaders on the MTA board.

Vincent Tessitore, who represents the Long Island Rail Road unions, said in September that the MTA does not need multiple levels of leadership.

“This transformation, no disrespect, but it should be complete at this point,” he said at the time.

Another source with knowledge of the overhaul called the transformation plan “Cuomo’s classic maneuver to distract critics.”

Concerns about the loss of workers

The tinkering with the transformation plan came as the MTA strives to vaccinate more of its workforce. THE CITY reported on Sunday that the agency ended in June a death benefit of $ 500,000 for unvaccinated workers who die from COVID.

With MTA figures showing less than 60% of bridge and tunnel, Long Island Rail Road and New York City Transit employees have been vaccinated, board member Neal Zuckerman said “power moves soft and hard ”will be needed to vaccinate more workers.

“I am concerned for their own safety, the safety of their families and frankly, I am concerned for the safety of our clients,” Zuckerman said.

But Tessitore warned that some workers could choose to quit rather than get vaccinated.

“A lot of them feel like ‘What I did is none of your business,’” he said. “We cannot control this.”


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