MIDTOWN — MTA Chair Joseph Lhota announced his resignation Wednesday so that he can mull a run for mayor.
Lhota plans to send a letter later today to Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing his intention to step down from the post, effective Dec. 31, so that he can explore a 2013 run.
“I will be exploring a potential candidacy for the mayor of New York,” Lhota told reporters following an MTA board meeting, minutes after members passed another fare hike.
Lhota said he will take the coming days to consider his decision, which will involve careful discussion with his family.
“This will be a life-defining decision and one that I will be seriously considering in the upcoming weeks,” he said, telling reporters that he would not comment further on the topic until he makes his final decision in early January.
Still, Lhota defended his decision to leave his post less than a year after formally taking office, and in the midst of a desperate fight for billions of dollars to rebuild the system after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
“My decision was bitter-sweet,” he said. “I never expected this to happen. I never expected this opportunity to arise. But I will use every part of this opportunity to support the MTA in everything I do for the rest of my life."
He said he intends to continue his lobbying efforts on behalf of the agency through the end of the year, but said he was confident he was leaving the agency in able hands.
Board member and former mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer, who was appointed vice-chair on Wednesday, will take over as acting chair of the board until a new chief is appointed by Cuomo.
Asked about the timing of his announcement on the day the board voted to raise fares and tolls, Lhota seemed dismissive of any connection.
“It’s a profile of courage,” he joked.
But there was already some indication that the hikes might come back and bite him.
Tony Murphy, 42, who lives in Brooklyn, was one of several straphangers who testified against the hike during a hearing, said that Lhota would be punished by voters for raising fares.
"Mr. Lhota, I don't know what your record has to recommend you as mayor," he said, slamming the hikes as well as downplaying Lhota's role getting the subways back online after Sandy.
"We know that you got a lot of credit for rehabilitating the transit system and we saw you on TV a lot," he said. "I think I saw Joseph Lhota break a sweat chasing the TV cameras after Hurricane Sandy."
Ferrer, who previously ran for mayor, said that Lhota had done “an extraordinary job” as MTA chair and said he was looking forward to his temporary new role as acting chair, but doesn’t have an interest in taking on the job permanently.
Lhota said he does not intend to recommended a permanent replacement for the job.