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New York City is Down One MTA Board Member as Mayor Fights Congestion Pricing Fee

Sherif Soliman, who was appointed to the board only last year, quietly resigned on Sept. 22, and the mayor won't get a new person on the panel until next year.

Photo: MTA|

Sherif Soliman weighs in during an MTA Board meeting.

One of Mayor Adams's four members on the MTA board has resigned, leaving the city one vote short on MTA policy, budget and — most important given the mayor's increasing broadsides — congestion pricing.

Sherif Soliman, who was appointed to the board only last year, quietly resigned on Sept. 22 at the same time that he left his City Hall post as the Chief Policy and Delivery Officer to become Senior Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance and Chief Financial Officer for the City University of New York.

Before he was on the MTA board, Soliman had been Mayor Bill de Blasio's representative on the Traffic Mobility Review Board, but he left that position to allow Adams to appoint his own member. That nominee turned out to be Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen, who himself resigned from the TMRB the morning that it released its recommendation for a $15 peak toll for congestion pricing — the very recommendation to which Mayor Adams is raising objections.

Soliman was an active member of the board who will be difficult to replace, according to advocates, as he was able to push city priorities relating to the MTA while also recognizing that public transit was integral to the city and region.

"Having a full slate [on the MTA board] is important so the city has as much of a voice as possible," said Reinvent Albany Senior Researcher Rachael Fauss. "Having a good person in that role can help facilitate things, and Sherif certainly was that person. So it is a loss, and hopefully, the next person who comes in for the mayor is able to both look at the needs of the city, but then also the bigger picture of what the MTA needs. And it's hard to get someone who fits both those roles."

Soliman's resignation came months before the MTA board gets a chance to vote on the TMRB's congestion pricing recommendations, including the $15 peak toll and a very limited set of exemptions from the toll. The timing is not auspicious for City Hall. Mayor Adams immediately began to call for exemptions and more input on the toll once it was announced, and since he's down to only three members until the state Senate can take up any nominee next year, it's less likely that the MTA board will consider any input from Adams.

Whoever Adams recommends, advocates are watching to make sure the next nominee understands their role as someone who understands the city's relationship with the MTA.

"We hope it's somebody who rides transit, somebody who understands the importance of transit, not just to the city, but to the region, to the regional economy and the region's whole self," said Lisa Daglian, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. "And that they understand the importance of all the different components of transit. That includes surface transit, and the city's role in ensuring that it meets its mandate and how it fits in as a partner to the MTA not just in providing service and ensuring the service runs smoothly but also as a partner in the MTA's application to the FHWA on congestion pricing."

City Hall did not return a request for comment.

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