Today’s news:

Top aide to Giuliani will head MTA

TimesLedger Newspapers

Joseph Lhota, a former deputy mayor and budget director renowned for having outstanding business, finance and organizational abilities, will take over the financially imperiled MTA.

Unlike his predecessor, Jay Walder, Lhota has scant transit experience, having served for a time on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed him last Thursday, said of Lhota: “Joe brings one-of-a-kind, managerial, government and private sector experience to the job and a lifelong commitment to public service that will benefit all straphangers.”

In accepting the appointment, Lhota said, “Millions of New Yorkers depend on the MTA every day and they deserve the most efficient and effective service. Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have initiated reforms that were performance-based and that cut costs and I look forward to bringing this same approach in the MTA.”

Lhota served as deputy mayor and budget director under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. A Bronx native raised on Long Island, he lives in Brooklyn Heights. He graduated cum laude from Georgetown University and received an MBA from Harvard Business School.

He served on the MTA Board from Dec. 14, 1999, to April 26, 2001.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed his appointment by thanking him “for deciding to return to the public sector and dedicating his considerable talents towards the daunting challenge of running the MTA.”

Lhota currently serves as executive vice president for administration for Madison Square Garden. He also worked as executive vice president of corporate administration for Cablevision and is a former investment banker.

Lhota’s appointment must be approved by the state Senate.

He will succeed Walder, a Rockaway native who resigned after serving two years of a six-year term to take over a mass transit company in Hong Kong. Walder presided over a monumental transformation of the MTA in the throes of a dire financial situation, carrying out heavy layoffs, service cuts and the elimination of two subway lines.

Gene Russianoff, attorney of the Straphangers Campaign, said: “Joe Lhota will be taking on one of the toughest jobs in government in some of the harshest economic times in America. The Straphangers Campaign believes that he has the necessary financial, political and management experience to be a good MTA chairman and CEO. The riders will be counting on him and will judge him on his accomplishments on their behalf.”

Richard Ravitch, a former MTA chairman and former lieutenant governor of New York, said of Lhota: “The ideal candidate to lead the MTA is experienced in finance, business and government and cares deeply about public service. Joe Lhota meets all of these criteria and I can think of no one better suited to this critical position.”

Cuomo also announced that Nuria Fernandez, a former airports commissioner in Chicago, would serve as MTA chief operating officer.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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