Charles Moerdler’s official days fighting for Bronx commuters’ transit needs have come to an end. He’s no longer on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo replaced a handful of board appointees in recent weeks because their terms had ended, while sparing vice chair — and former Bronx borough president — Fernando Ferrer as well as Lawrence Schwartz, chief strategy officer at airport concession company OTG, and, formerly, secretary to Cuomo and Gov. David Paterson.
Others who were replaced, however, include Peter Ward, president of the powerful New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. Also, Mitchell Pally — selected as chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute in 2010, and Andrew Saul, whose term wasn’t set to expire until 2021.
Yet the fact Moerdler’s time on the MTA board is done really shouldn’t come as earth-shattering news, he said. A holdover from Paterson, Moerdler’s tenure already was done a couple years ago. He was appointed in 2010 to serve through 2016. But he was asked that year to continue until 2017 as a one-year holdover, and again in 2017, for one more year.
“Which I did,” Moerdler said. “No surprises.”
However, change already is underway at the MTA. Cuomo announced March 29 nomination of a new chairman at the agency, Patrick Foye of Nassau County — replacing Ferrer — as well as the four new board members.
Haeda Mihaltses of Queens and Michael Lynton of Brooklyn will serve as Cuomo appointees, while Rhonda Herman of Westchester County and Kevin Law of Suffolk County were recommended by Westchester County and Suffolk County, respectively.
“I vowed not to pass a budget without a comprehensive plan to reform the MTA’s bureaucracy,” Cuomo said, in a release. “The MTA needs a board that will oversee and manage the transit system so it can best serve its riders. This critical component of the MTA reform plan will ensure an unmatched level of accountability.”
“I thank the outgoing members for their service and commitment to improving our state’s transit networks,” the governor added.
Foye was named MTA president in 2017, where he pushed modernization, but also supported the agency’s day-to-day management. Previously, he served as a board member between 2010 and 2012. Prior to joining the MTA, he served as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and as president of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp.
Foye also served as Cuomo’s deputy secretary for economic development in 2011, overseeing the Empire State Development Corp.
Two days after he revealed Foye would become MTA’s new chair, Cuomo — along with senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — announced an agreement on the fiscal 2020 budget. It included MTA reforms and new dedicated funding streams to the agency.
The reforms require MTA to develop a reorganization plan by June. They also demand the transit authority undergo an independent forensic audit and efficiency review, as well as a construction review unit comprised of outside experts to examine major projects, among other changes.
While it all may fall in line with the governor’s plan to improve commuters’ experience traveling around the city, former Community Board 8 traffic and transportation chair and district manager Michael Heller is sad to see Moerdler leave his MTA board post.
“I knew that he was considered a holdover and that his term had actually expired,” Heller said. “I think it’s a loss for the city, the Bronx, and our community. I worked very closely with him on a number of transit-related issues.”
Years ago, Heller even worked for the city’s transit authority.
“I remain very interested in how the transportation system works, and I know that (Moerdler) was a major player,” Heller said. Moerdler also was deeply involved in citywide and regional transportation policy issues.
“But he also kept an eye open for what was going on in his community in the Bronx,” Heller said. Including a long-brewing plan to bring Metro-North service to the eastern part of the borough that is now, finally, on the brink of fruition, after Cuomo recently helped broker a deal with Amtrak following a protracted stalemate.
Now that his MTA board run has come to an end, “It’s sort of a mixed bag,” Moerdler said.
“I have enjoyed representing the people of Riverdale, the people of the City of New York, the people of the state, to try and do those things which I think are right, and to try to be aggressive in them.”
Like raising awareness about rising hate crimes on the transit system, cracking down on corrupt vendor practices, and giving community boards more heads-up — before the city’s transit agency slaps them with unpleasant surprise changes on the sprawling Bx10 bus route, for example.
But it’s impossible to do everything.
“At the same time, my partners have reminded me I have a day job,” Moerdler, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, said. And “this thing takes up an enormous amount of time, if you’re going to do it right.”