Governor Andrew Cuomo formally announced Thursday afternoon he will name former deputy mayor and current Madison Square Garden executive Joe Lhota to become the new chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
He will now head the nation's largest transit agency.
A veteran of city government, Lhota became former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s budget director in 1995, overseeing the city’s then $36 billion budget. In 1998, he was promoted to deputy mayor for operations, essentially the city’s number two in command.
"Joe is about as skilled in understanding government and business as anyone in the country," Giuliani said.
"Joe Lhota was a terrific deputy mayor of New York City and a terrific budget director of New York City," said Former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro. "He knows how to run large, complex organizations, he knows how to balance a budget, and he knows how to address transportation issues."
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, tapped Lhota despite the fact he’s a Republican with no transit management experience. Lhota did once served as one of the mayor’s appointees to the MTA board.
After leaving city government in 2001, Lhota went to work for Cablevision and was eventually promoted to executive vice president of administration at Madison Square Garden.
"When I talked to Joe about it, I said, 'You know, why do you want to leave your great job with Cablevision and put yourself under the kind of pressure that you're under with the MTA?' And Joe wants to do it because he's a public servant. That's what he likes to do," Giuliani said.
Former MTA Chair Richard Ravitch also agreed that Lhota's lack of transit experience would not hinder his executive ability.
"There are very able people at the MTA who have responsibilities in discreet parts of the operating transit system. That's not the same thing as being chairman of the board and chief executive officer of something as vast as the MTA," said Ravitch.
Several years ago, Lhota also developed a serious illness he believed was a result of the time he spent at the World Trade Center site.
Lhota responded well to treatment and never spoke publicly about details of his condition.
His wife, Tamra, was a major fundraiser for Giuliani.
In a statement, Cuomo said in part, "Joe Lhota 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. I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA, reduce costs, and improve service for New Yorkers."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also released a statement where he thanked Lhota for returning to the public sector, saying, "Joe has the talent, experience, and skill to take on those challenges and build on the improvements Jay Walder started. The Governor made the right choice in appointing Joe and I look forward to working with him.”
It remains to be seen whether the Republican-controlled State Senate will return to session to confirm Lhota.
They are not due back until January.