MTA Reorg: Respected Exec Monheim Out, Cuomo Operative In

A “shake-up” is underway at the top levels of the MTA, reported Crain’s Insider this morning. Two top executives, Charles Monheim and Linda Kleinbaum, are on their way out the door. Moving into the agency is Steve Morello, a political operative with deep ties to the Cuomo family.

Charles Monheim, a widely respected MTA executive, is leaving the agency. On the way in is a political insider with deep ties to the Cuomo family. Image: ## IV for Daily News##

The departure of Monheim represents a loss of institutional knowledge and energy that will have to be replaced. Monheim was brought back to the MTA, where he had previously worked, as chief operating officer under former chair Jay Walder. After Joe Lhota took the helm of the transit agency, he became the MTA’s director of strategic initiatives. In those roles, Monheim earned a reputation as a creative thinker and experienced transit operator. “I have a pretty high opinion of him,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “I think of him as the generator of ideas and strategies.”

In his first run at the MTA, in the 1980s, Monheim helped oversee the rehabilitation of the decrepit subway system. More recently, he has been the force behind delivering riders real-time arrival information for subways and buses. He was also leading the efforts to move from the MetroCard to a new smart card fare payment system, having successfully done the same in London. An article from City and State last year titled Monheim “Mr. Fix-It.”

Kleinbaum, currently the MTA’s deputy executive director for administration, will be retiring, reported Crain’s. Current director of government affairs Hilary Ring will shift into her spot, with Morello moving into Ring’s position.

Morello, whom Transportation Nation called a “longtime political insider,” has served both the current and former Governor Cuomo. He was Mario Cuomo’s press secretary and most recently worked as Andrew Cuomo’s deputy director of communications before heading to the MTA.

  • Anonymous

    Making a former press secretary the second-most person at the MTA. Characteristically visionary leadership. Exactly what was needed. There’s no difference between running a giant transportation system and making sure press releases get out when they’re supposed to.

  • MTA observer

    Could be good, could be bad. Monheim was Walkder’s guy, so no big surprise he is leaving. And one thing that MTA corporate, which operates very much as a separate entity from the operating divisions, desperately needs is someone who knows how to operate in the political sphere and get things from Albany. Perhaps Morello is that guy. He could also just be a Cuomo lacky. Time will tell. In any case, Kleinbaum is no loss and Hilary Ring was no superstar in the intergov role. This can only be an improvement at that position.  

  • Larry Littlefield

    I would be concerned that Cuomo is shifting things around at the top not to solve problems, but to get in people who will cover up the problems and consequences until he is out of office, because at this point there is no solution.

    Except that the past 18 years have shown the existing MTA board members and execs have been willing to do that on behalf of other Governors in any event.  Cuomo didn’t need any new people to accomplish that.

  • JK

    With Walder and Monheim departing, the MTA has lost a huge amount of world class transit experience and innovative policy knowledge. Their skills are not being replaced. Cuomo is consolidating his authority over the MTA and making sure that it marches in perfect time to his beat. The transparency warning bells should be going off. On mega-projects like the Tappan Zee Bridge, Cuomo has shown zero interest in fiscal transparency and public accountability. The MTA faces inconvenient fiscal truths that may not be welcome as Cuomo preps for reelection and a 2016 run for president.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The MTA faces inconvenient fiscal truths that may not be welcome as Cuomo preps for reelection and a 2016 run for president.”
    It’s a bigger problem running for Governor in 2014.  People elsewhere in the country might take to someone speaking truth to everyone in New York who yelled “I want for me now” for 18 years as the MTA borrowed to make the deals work.  Those with power in New York may be less pleased.

  • Time to move?

    Between Cuomo and Christi filling the region’s transportation agencies with patronage hacks while trying to drive out any remaining competent professional career staff with drastic cuts to their compensation, we’re just screwed.

  • Guest

    The MTA needs regular riders on it’s board not people who hardly use Public Transportation. We copy from London’s Transit and other places, what works in other cities does not always work here. The MTa keeps building projects taht are years behind & over budget. Stop building what you can’t afford. Maybe then some of that debt could be reduced. The MTA has been abandoned by the State & City for years. Congestion Pricing is justanother Tax on working folks and won’t work.


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