New York, New Jersey governors replace Port Authority leadership

New York, New Jersey governors replace Port Authority leadership
New York, New Jersey governors replace Port Authority leadership

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Tuesday they will replace two top executives at the powerful bi-state agency that controls many of the region's most critical transportation assets.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Pat Foye, whom Cuomo appointed to the authority in 2011, and Chairman John Degnan, whom Christie appointed in 2014, are leaving.

The shakeup comes amid a struggle to find a chief executive officer. This is a new position created under reforms intended to clean up the agency after the "Bridgegate" scandal raised questions of political meddling.

Resuming the CEO search will be "one of the first priorities" for the incoming officers, Cuomo and Christie said in a joint statement.

Replacing Foye is Rick Cotton, Cuomo's special counsel since January 2015 who has overseen some of the governor's highest profile infrastructure projects.

Those projects include a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, a $4 billion public-private partnership to renovate LaGuardia Airport's central terminal and the transformation of an historic post office into a grand waiting hall for Pennsylvania Station, the busiest transport hub in the nation.

Tapped to lead the board is Kevin O'Toole, a lawyer, Christie ally and former long-time state senator who joined the board in March. O'Toole and Cotton are expected to be sworn in at a special meeting of the Port Authority board on Thursday.

The authority has been slow to fully adopt governance changes after the Bridgegate controversy. In 2013, a former Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, shut down lanes at the George Washington Bridge to cause massive traffic jams as punishment for a local mayor who declined to support Christie's gubernatorial re-election bid.

In his resignation letter to Christie on Tuesday, Chairman Degnan said he was "disappointed" that the CEO position has not yet been implemented. He highlighted changes including posting board meeting agendas and materials online well in advance, allowing the public to comment before board votes, and new guidelines on recusals and oversight.

Degnan had championed a replacement for the authority's crumbling 42nd Street bus terminal in Manhattan, helping to secure about $3.5 billion for the project in the authority's latest capital plan.

Degnan told Reuters in an email that he did not have specific plans other to "increase my attention to nonprofit boards I sit on and watch my grandchildren grow up."

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases and Cynthia Osterman)

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