Southern Brooklyn

Riders and pols react to Byford’s resignation

"He even showed us he cares about the R train."

January 24, 2020 Paula Katinas
Byford resigns
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News of the sudden resignation of New York City Transit President Andy Byford left riders and elected officials saddened and anxious as the transportation system faced an upheaval at the top.

“Subway and bus riders are grateful to Andy Byford for his historic service at New York City Transit,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, an organization that advocates for better transit service. “In two years, Andy made subways faster and more reliable, he tackled long standing challenges to improving bus service, and he crafted the first plan in a generation that would truly modernize the transit system.”

Byford, the man in charge of keeping the city’s subways and buses running, resigned on Thursday after two years on the job. He had previously worked in Toronto and London.

“I’m very proud of what we have achieved as a team over the past two years and I believe New York City Transit is well-placed to continue its forward progress now that the MTA has a record-breaking $51.5 billion capital program in place,” Byford said in a statement in which he also thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairperson Patrick Foye and the MTA board “for giving me the opportunity to serve New York and to head up North America’s largest transit system.”

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Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, lamented Byford’s departure on Twitter.

“For an agency in the throes of a crisis of confidence, Andy Byford took concrete steps to win back the public’s trust through tangible actions. Hell, he even showed us he cares about the R train in Bay Ridge,” Brannan tweeted.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson summed up his opinion in one word. “DEVASTATED,” he tweeted.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes was also unhappy to hear about Byford’s resignation. “The MTA will face a loss of the public’s confidence because of Byford’s departure, and I hope that whoever comes next will be able to restore that trust,” he tweeted.

Gounardes, a Democrat who represents several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, offered Byford a friendly goodbye. “Wishing you the best in your next steps, Andy, and thank you for riding with us,” he tweeted.

The New York Times reported that when Byford arrived in 2018, the subway had a dismal on-time rate of 58 percent. Under Byford’s leadership, the on-time rate rose to 80 percent.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams placed the blame for Byford’s resignation at Cuomo’s feet.

“Another terrible display of this Gov’s style,” Williams tweeted. “We didn’t agree on everything but I always appreciated his great work. This is a serious step backward & it belongs at the foot of @NYGovCuomo who I hope people finally realize DOES control the @MTA.”

Raskin also mentioned Cuomo in his statement about Byford.

“No matter who runs the transit system day-to-day, ultimately Gov. Cuomo is in charge of the MTA, and riders will be holding the governor accountable for the quality of our transit service. With whatever management team he puts in place, the governor is on the hook for making subways faster and more reliable, rescuing buses from years of decline, and delivering on a $51 billion capital program to fix public transit for the long term,” Raskin said.

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