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Nationwide Search For New Head of MTA Starts as Chairman Retires

 Tom Prendergast walked out of MTA headquarters for the last time as chairman and CEO of the transit authority Tuesday.
Tom Prendergast walked out of MTA headquarters for the last time as chairman and CEO of the transit authority Tuesday.
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Twitter/Beth de Falco

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Tom Prendergast walked out of MTA headquarters for the last time as chairman and CEO of the transit authority Tuesday, but his work for the agency isn't over yet.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is enlisting Prendergast's help to find his replacement, along with six other people tapped to review and recommend candidates as part of a "search committee."

The committee also includes former MTA chair and one-time Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, current Vice Chairman Fernando Ferrer, Regional Planning Association Chairman Scott Rechler, Transport Workers Union Executive Vice President John Samuelsen, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and Partnership for NYC President and CEO Kathy Wylde.

“Under the leadership of Tom Prendergast, the MTA has made dramatic progress — most recently with the successful opening of the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway — and I have directed the search committee to identify candidates who will build on his record of accomplishments," Cuomo said in a statement.

At his last press conference as MTA chair and CEO, Prendergast said the decision to step down from the agency was "bittersweet," but that a recent illness made him rethink his "work-life balance" and led him to decide to spend more time with his wife and children.

Cuomo tapped Ronnie Hakim, the current President of the New York City Transit system, to be the MTA's interim executive director, and Ferrer to be Acting Chairman during the "nationwide" search for a permanent replacement for Prendergast.

Cuomo praised Hakim as "a true transportation professional who has dedicated her life to improving the commute for millions of New Yorkers."

"Ronnie Hakim is ready to embrace the challenge of running the nation’s largest transportation network during this transition," he said in a statement. "I am confident that in this new role she will continue doing that as we reimagine and modernize the MTA for the 21st century."

Prendergast commended Cuomo's decision, saying the "MTA will be in good hands with Ronnie Hakim."

“Ronnie has a deep understanding of our regional transportation network from her exemplary stewardship of New York City Transit to her time leading regional commuter rail and highway agencies," he said in a statement. 

"I wish her the best of luck and I look forward to serving on the search committee that will choose the next permanent leader of this agency.” 

In her own statement, Hakim thanked Cuomo "for entrusting me with this incredible responsibility and Tom Prendergast for the fine example he set during his years leading the MTA.”

"The MTA has been my professional home for more than two decades. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as interim Executive Director leading the dedicated men and women who keep this region moving day in and day out," Hakim said.

While Hakim temporarily oversees the overall MTA, her right hand at NYC Transit, Senior Vice President of the Department of Buses and President of the MTA Bus Company Darryl Irick, will take over Hakim's NYCT duties as Acting President of the city's transit system.

Hakim picked Irick herself for the job, saying she has long relied "daily on Darryl for his judgment, advice and incredible depth of knowledge."

"I know with Darryl leading Transit, I can focus on the broad mission at hand assuring the entire MTA network provides the service our customers deserve while we search for a permanent Chairperson,” Hakim said in a statement.

Irick started his career in the transit system as a bus operator in 1986, following in the footsteps of his father, wo was also a bus operator and maintainer. 

He was named to the senior vice president post in 2011, and has overseen new approaches to winter storm response and upgrades to bus technology, including pedestrian turn warning and collision avoidance systems.

“It is a great honor to be asked to lead New York City Transit, an agency that has been part of my family and my life for as long as I can remember," Irick said in a statement. "I look forward to working with my colleagues at Transit to face the challenges ahead as we work together to provide our customers with safe, reliable service."

Cuomo said he expects to receive the search committee's recommendations "in the coming weeks."