He went off the rails.
Soon-to-resign Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s notorious bullying and micromanagement helped gas years of dysfunction on the MTA, driving away high managers, inflicting labor strife and prioritizing high-profile development tasks over working trains.
“It’s a great metaphor for his entire tenure — the brutality and the threatening of the underlings — that was what MTA experienced,” mentioned Norman Brown, an MTA board member, representing the unions for the MetroNorth commuter rail.
“The last few years of demonizing the workforce, it’s been tough to justify,” he added. “Who wants to do business that way.”
The company is at present confronting a significant practice operator scarcity — pushed by pandemic-era retirements and a hiring freeze — that’s brought about hundreds of cancellations and left fuming straphangers losing their generally ready 20 minutes or extra for subway trains.
This newest disaster comes just a little greater than a 12 months after Andy Byford quit, following a slew of extremely publicized disputes because the governor publicly belittled and sidelined him, whilst he oversaw a revitalization of the flailing subway system.
Brown advised The Post that a lot of dysfunction was pushed by two of Cuomo’s appointees to the MTA board, Larry Schwartz and Linda Lacewell, who’re seen by company workers because the governor’s enforcers.
Both figured prominently in Attorney General Letitia James’s blistering 168-page report that affirmed and uncovered 11 ladies who have been sexually harassed or groped by Cuomo and revealed how a “toxic” office setting allowed the abuses.
“I have no doubt that he enjoyed humiliating staff,” mentioned a former MTA insider. “I watched him drag people into meetings just to do it.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul mentioned Wednesday throughout a press convention in Albany she planned to clean house of anybody intently tied to the wrongdoing uncovered by James’ workplace but was not particularly requested about Schwartz or Lacewell’s fates.
The MTA has suffered by means of large turnover throughout Cuomo’s soon-to-truncated three phrases as New York’s high boss. No chief of town’s bus and subway system lasted for greater than two years throughout the governor’s reign.
Nor was there any query about who was calling the pictures on the nation’s largest transit operation, which carried greater than 5 million individuals a day on the subways earlier than the pandemic hit.
“He had a hold over the agency that was unprecedented,” mentioned Jaqi Cohen of the Straphangers Campaign.
Cuomo put in Schwartz and different high aides on the MTA, personally interviewed many high managers and he and his aides have been recognized to berate and big-foot workers over the smallest points.
Byford went public after quitting, citing Cuomo’s therapy of his subordinates as one cause for his departure.
“I just would not accept the fact that my people were being yelled at,” he mentioned final March in a tv interview.
Cuomo picked Sarah Feinberg, a former federal rail official and PR skilled, to switch Byford on an interim foundation in 2020. She subsequently left the MTA after the state Senate rebuffed Cuomo’s request to make her the board’s chairman.
To Cohen and different transit activists, Cuomo was a Jekyll-and-Hyde character, the place they might discover an ally or an enemy, relying on the difficulty and the day.
He managed to win the decades-long battle over congestion pricing, guaranteeing the company a brand new funding stream for wanted upgrades and repairs.
However, Cuomo’s concentrate on mega tasks that continued to run massively over finances on his watch — just like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access — diverted funds and attention that could have sped badly wanted subway sign upgrades.
“It proves how much he could have done if he cared about maintenance as much as he cared about big fancy projects,” Cohen added. “You can’t cut a ribbon on a subway signal. And those are the kinds of improvements that help everyday New Yorkers.”
Insiders and activists all level to the Byford saga because the clearest instance of how Cuomo’s instincts might get it proper — after which have all of it go terribly mistaken.
“The best way to view it is through the parable of Andy Byford,” mentioned Danny Pearlstein, the spokesman for transit activist group Riders Alliance. “The governor had the foresight to bring Andy Byford here and then ran him off.”
The subway system was in disaster as years of deferred upkeep and upgrades lastly caught up with the MTA, inflicting a meltdown that saw on-time figures for the system fall below 70 percent and left riders fuming.
Cuomo employed Byford to repair the mess as he was hammered over it by his 2018 Democratic main opponent, Cynthia Nixon.
The Brit shortly earned good headlines as his tweaks to the system’s each day operations sped up trains and slashed delays.
But Cuomo uninterested in another person getting the credit score and commenced to publicly chafe.
In 2019, the governor organized a conference call the place he mocked Byford’s $40 billion plan to modernize the subways alerts, a day that one MTA insider describes because the “among the most surreal” of their time on the company.
Cuomo then belittled the subway system’s station cleaners, triggering a public rebuke from Byford.
A swiftly rolled out MTA reorganization plan that summer time considerably decreased Byford’s authority on the company and triggered months of hypothesis he was seeking to go away, before he ultimately departed in 2020.
Cuomo’s love of controversial big-ticket tasks didn’t cease on the MTA.
He muscled the Port Authority into approving a $2 billion AirTrain that will loop again from Willets Point to serve LaGuardia Airport, regardless that the worth tag has quadrupled and opponents argue that prolonged the N line can be way more logical routing.
But, even with Cuomo’s resignation in two weeks, Port Authority insiders say the mission “is proceeding as planned.”
“The critics can say what they want,” mentioned Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “But, the facts are that without Governor Cuomo, newly accelerated projects like the Second Avenue Subway, the [Long Island Rail Road’s] Third Track and the L-train reconstruction and soon-to-be-completed East Side Access would have remained stalled … and the agency would have continued to languish as it had for decades.”
— Additional reporting by David Meyer