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.

  • J

    Is this any surprise? The guy’s bringing his caravan of muscle cars up to Albany with him. Keep pushing him on it, though. See if you can get other newspapers to pick this up, since it is really important.

    It might be a long, frustrating, four years with a Democrat who named Gantt and Kalikow to his team. Ugh.

  • donnie

    But Kalikow doesn’t know anything! He’s a real estate goon!

  • Or Not

    WTF knows what this means? Who says Kalikow has a say in anything? Save the arm waving for the appointments, not the transition team. If Cuomo appoints some chumps for SDOT or the MTA, that’s a good thing to get exercised about. Cuomo has talked a lot about blowing up Albany, so he appoints the equivalent of the transportation politburo. Does it mean he’s a hypocrite? Or does it mean that the transition doesn’t mean much? There are some key people missing from this list who are known to be advising Cuomo on transportation, most prominently Mary Ann Crotty. If this body had an important say, she would be on this list.

  • What I’m not sure I understand is the inclusion of airline operators. Air transportation isn’t really part of state policy. I get getting someone from JetBlue if the intention is to learn from some of JetBlue’s lean production practices, but then why would Cuomo put someone from Delta on the team?

  • It’s so that they can block any potential competition from high-speed rail.

  • he’s not even in office yet and i am already disappointed.

  • I was disappointed before he was even anointed as the Democratic nominee.

  • Can’t someone start a campaign to get JSK nominated for State DOT?

  • Alon: “Air transportation isn’t really part of state policy.”

    Air transportation has been a big issue upstate in cities like Buffalo and Rochester. Even though you’re technically right about it being federal policy — and Schumer worked this issue in the past, it remains an economic development concern that I guess he wants to address.

    In other words, if JetBlue pulled out of upstate, it would be a huge embarrassment for Cuomo.

  • Apparatchik

    Transportation Politburo To Do List
    Fix bridge before bridge break.
    Sell bridge to capitalists.
    Fix road
    Sell road to capitalists.
    Fix Metro systems
    Sell Metro systems to capitalists.
    Tell ecologists everything OK.

  • I don’t think so Westchesterite; we need JSK’s leadership to finish our 1st and 2nd avenue cycle lanes up to 125th.

    Besides, I am getting a little cold on state/national transportation politics. We throw money for bicycle and pedestrian projects at localities that don’t yet want them and it ends up backfiring. And as great as livable streets are they don’t generally *connect* localities–the supposed purpose of state and national administration. We should be talking about decent railroads for metropolitan regions, not bicycle paths for nascar fans.

    I see us doing best, in state and national government, just fighting tooth and nail against automobile subsidy. This fits with the current political climate a lot better than advocacy for what sounds like a lot of money (but isn’t) for unwanted livability projects. We have every advantage in the budget cutting fight because auto infrastructure is so outrageously expensive and inefficient; it’s just a matter of shedding light on these facts. Has anyone else noticed that Tea Partiers, much unlike prominent Democrats, deride the auto-bailout? They sound like a bunch of Streetsblog readers.

    There just isn’t much for a livable DOT head to do in this fight. High-level DOTs aren’t supposed to fight against grandiose, overbuilt (and 99% auto-only) transportation infrastructure; rather, they take credit for it. Even the pleasantly surprising LaHood has overseen and will oversee a lot of deeply misguided projects. It’s his job. I wouldn’t waste livable streets talent above the local level, at this point. Better to help turn off the spigot and make localities to do the math for themselves.

  • fdr

    “we need JSK’s leadership to finish our 1st and 2nd avenue cycle lanes up to 125th.”

    Is she doing that?

  • Josef

    Professor Mitchell Moss though not an official “reformer” per se has demonstrated publicly his distaste for foolish transit financing in the past: http://www.mitchellmoss.com/oped/NYTimes-2-Nov-09.pdf. Presumably he will give Cuomo the good sense not to rob the MTA further in order to prop up other areas of the State budget.

    He also recently hosted Jay Walder at NYU. I don’t think anyone in attendance (including Moss) thought that Mr. Walder came off as anything but extremely competent. You can listen to the whole thing here: http://wagner.nyu.edu/podcasts/podcastDetail.php?id=169 .

    Though he’s only one person on the team, I trust that his voice will be one of reason, hopefully representing the needs of New York City on a committee overly dominated by Statewide interests.

  • “Is she doing that?”

    We’re all doing that.

  • nonycer

    Take a ride outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn sometime Streetsbloggers!

    Transportation policy in a state as enormous and georgraphically diverse (literally going from New England to the Midwest) as New York State can’t be entirely focused on building bike lanes in Manhattan. Half the state’s population dosen’t live anywhere near the MTA. Cuomo needs to think about ways to improve upstate transportation (critical to bringing jobs upstate and building the upstate economy), hence the inclusion of airlines and bus companies. The airline industry has long price gouged upstate cities, causing huge problems for our ability to attract new residents and create jobs.

    High speed rail would be amazing and would revolutionize the upstate economy, but anyone who thinks a state like NYS is going to get the billions in Federal investment neccesary to make it happen in this political climate is insane. I for one applaud Cuomo for thinking practically about what we can achieve now to improve transportation, especially outside of NYC. The last thing we need is a transporation policy totaly dominated by NYC bike advocates. Nobody is “cycling” from Rochester to Syracuse.

    And for that matter, Spitzer’s transition team was chock full of lefty NYC transit/biking advocates, and look how far that got you all. No congestion pricing and the MTA is even further up shits creek than usual.

  • fdr

    “Nobody is “cycling” from Rochester to Syracuse.”

    This is why they need JSK at State DOT.

  • I’m not convinced that no one is cycling from Rochester to Syracuse. It’s a nice weekend round-trip.

  • Cycling from Rochester to Syracuse? Sigh. The reason I don’t want JSK to head NYDOT is pure altruism: New York City made the mistake of making her more than a janitor, and New York City should bear the full costs. It should not under any circumstances inflict genius ideas like bike lanes that stop just short of East Harlem on hapless Upstate cities.

    High-speed rail would do precisely nothing to support Upstate. It offers good transportation value and can help its riders and whoever runs it, but it should not be confused with long-term economic development. Excluding high-speed commuter towns, Japan has had zero city regions revitalized by the Shinkansen, and one hurt by it: Niigata’s tourism industry suffered after it became a day trip away from Tokyo, as travelers no longer stayed overnight. France has one city revitalized by the TGV: Lille, which made extraordinary effort to attract businesses; other towns that just waited for the TGV to help them remain as backward as ever.

  • Speaking of Rochester, isn’t that where Silver spent $12 million in state funds on a collapsed parking garage?

    Rail of any speed is no economic panacea, but betting your economic future on affordable jet fuel is insane. Those regional airline routes come and go; with the next spike in the price of oil, they will just go. I hope today’s practical thinkers, who applaud increasing dependency on a rapidly expiring resource, are not expecting another airline bailout.

  • Nathan, I would propose that no region bet its economic future on passenger transportation of any kind. In every region, local economic production is far more important, and the most important transportation is that which facilitates that. The key economic goal for Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse is to get to the point that they don’t need easy transportation to New York to thrive. Those cities are all of the same size class as Geneva and Zurich, or for that matter Hartford, but both the local leaders and the imperial leaders of New York City treat them as economic colonies.

    This doesn’t mean that better rail transportation between New York and those cities is a bad idea. For the right price, it’d be a great idea. But it would have to be justified as transportation, rather than as economic development, or more likely political bribe to Upstate legislators. If I were on the transition team, I’d advocate asking the FRA for extensive waivers before doing anything else, allowing off-the-shelf European trains to run on US tracks, at the same speed permitted to them in Europe on equal-quality track.

  • If anyone on this transition team brings up the “FRA”, it will be to pitch subsidized flights between Buffalo and Frankfurt.

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