Industry and Insiders Dominate Cuomo’s Transpo Transition Team

Andrew Cuomo named his transportation transition team and for transportation reformers, there’s not a lot to celebrate. The list has no voices from the advocacy community and is dominated by private-sector business leaders. That’s an unfortunate step backwards from Eliot Spitzer’s team four years ago, which was stacked full of progressive transportation advocates, MTA reformers and congestion pricing experts.

Here’s the list, with our brief explanations added in parentheses:

  • Kendra Adams, Executive Director, New York State Motor Truck Association
  • Dave Barger, C.E.O., President and Director, JetBlue
  • Eugene Berardi, Jr., President and CEO, Adirondack Trailways (Private sector, intercity bus operator)
  • Lillian Borrone, Chairman, ENO Transportation Foundation (Long-time Port Authority official, with maritime expertise)
  • Martin Dilan, New York State Senate (Chair of Transportation Committee)
  • David Gantt, NYS Assembly (Chair of Transportation Committee)
  • Robert Gioia, former Chairman, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
  • Gail Grimmett, Senior Vice President, Delta Air Lines
  • Peter S. Kalikow, former Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA chief under Pataki, 2001-2007)
  • Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (Umbrella organization for construction unions in New York, but does not represent transit unions like the TWU)
  • Cheryl McKissack, Recording Secretary, Women Builders Council (private sector organization supporting female contractors and engineers, not labor)
  • George Miranda, Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, President, Teamsters Hispanic Caucus (LaBarbera is also a Teamster)
  • Mitchell Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Henry Hart Rice Professor Urban Policy and Planning at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
  • Andrew Murstein, founder, Board Member, and President of Medallion Financial Corp (Provides loans to purchase taxi medallions)
  • Vincent Polimeni, Founder, President and C.E.O., Polimeni International, LLC (Long-Island based real estate developer, strong proponent of Nassau-Westchester tunnel connection)
  • Denise Richardson, Managing Director, General Contractors Association of New York
  • Jay Simson, President, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York
  • Rodney Slater, former Secretary of U.S. Department of Transportation (Former Arkansas DOT head, came with Clinton to Washington. Not an outspoken reformer.)

The list isn’t winning any applause from the state’s transportation reformers.

“It’s suprising who’s not on the list,” said the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Kate Slevin. “There’s no one from the transportation advocacy community, for example.” Slevin also asked where forward-thinking officials like Janette Sadik-Khan, Chris Ward, and Jay Walder were on the list.

Both Sadik-Khan and Ward served on Spitzer’s transition team (before they held their current positions), as did advocates like the Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff, former TSTC director Jon Orcutt, and the Regional Plan Association’s Bob Yaro. Take a look back at Spitzer’s team; the contrast is striking.

“The message here is that they want to cultivate obvious industry groups but not have any discernible transportation policy,” one transportation official told Streetsblog. “But that may make sense if they basically see transportation as all pain for the foreseeable future.” There may not be any spoils to divvy up, just pain to share.

One advocate we spoke with said that Cuomo’s transition team was expected to focus heavily on personnel, as compared to past transitions that put a greater emphasis on policy decisions. Deciding who’ll run the state DOT and whether to keep Jay Walder on as MTA chief are top on the team’s agenda. Peter Kalikow, who chaired the MTA board under Pataki, is likely to exercise outsized influence over Walder’s fate.

The same source also noted the heavy representation of the private sector means that the transition team is made up of people who’ll be lobbying the government for their projects down the line. You wouldn’t want to bar business leaders from participating in the transition entirely — private sector representatives on Spitzer’s team included Sadik-Khan, who was then at Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Doreen Frasca, who has won plaudits for her performance on the MTA board — but this team is very heavily slanted in one direction.

Though not as shut out as transportation advocates, labor is also underrepresented on Cuomo’s transition team. Spitzer’s team included five union leaders, compared to Cuomo’s two. Labor has been similarly snubbed on other transition teams, leading many to believe Cuomo is ready to start a fight with the state’s unions.