President Joe Biden is such a booster of passenger rail that he earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” With Biden in the White House, U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been sending New York billions of dollars to improve and expand the state’s aging transportation infrastructure. Much of the funding can be tied to the $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed in 2021 after it passed Congress with bipartisan support. At the same time, the Hochul administration is making its own multibillion-dollar transportation investments.
The funding is flowing all across the state. In New York City, money is going toward an extension of the Second Avenue subway and to build the Gateway rail tunnel, which will add capacity under the Hudson River and provide benefits to much of the East Coast. Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway secured $55 million through the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program. Syracuse is turning a portion of Interstate 81 into a boulevard, Long Islanders can now commute directly to Grand Central and even New York City’s long-maligned airports may now live up to Biden’s standards.
City & State’s Transportation Power 100 features the many movers and shakers who are behind these and other projects that are keeping New Yorkers on the move.
Janno Lieber is getting things done. This year alone, he got a $1.1 billion funding boost for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, finally completed the East Side Access project and got federal officials to sign off on congestion pricing. Lieber’s work isn’t over, as he says he needs more money from both Albany and Washington, D.C., for major infrastructure projects. Attendees at November’s Somos conference may be looking forward to more poolside transportation finance talk if Lieber makes an encore appearance to push his agenda.
Rick Cotton has established himself as one of the most impactful transportation leaders New York has ever seen. Cotton presided over the renovation of LaGuardia Airport and the overhaul of a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Now, he’s working on a broader $18 billion JFK vision plan, including a new terminal – and he has promised the plan will try to minimize disruptions for passengers. Cotton also has plans for replacing the bus terminal in midtown Manhattan and is presiding over what is now the nation’s busiest seaport.
Infrastructure projects across the state are at the top of state Transportation Department Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez’s to-do list. Amid a federal effort to reverse the damage of highways cutting through minority neighborhoods, she is overseeing the $1 billion project to cap the Kensington Expressway and restore Humboldt Parkway in Buffalo and to remake Interstate 81 in Syracuse as a boulevard, while fighting lawsuits to stop the project. She announced a $78 million remodel of the Chautauqua County Veterans Memorial Bridge and a $400 million plan to redo the Livingston Avenue Bridge in Albany.
Overseeing the nation’s passenger rail system as Amtrak’s board chair, Tony Coscia keeps finding many projects coming back to New York. He has been thrust into debates over the future of Penn Station, Amtrak’s New York City home, along with oversight of the Gateway Program along the Northeast Corridor. Recently renominated by President Joe Biden, a rail enthusiast, to continue with Amtrak, Coscia, a partner at Windels Marx, now has to battle a proposal from Republicans on the House subcommittee that oversees transportation spending to gut Amtrak funding, particularly for the Northeast Corridor.
Ydanis Rodriguez has been highly visible as New York City’s transportation commissioner. The former New York City Council Transportation Committee chair has launched a high-profile tour of the boroughs, is urging New Yorkers to rethink buying cars and touted a rise in bike ridership while contending with a rise in bike accidents. Rodriguez has said he is working to develop a new redesign for McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, following Mayor Eric Adams’ U-turn on a proposal from earlier this year.
Catherine Rinaldi is at the center of commuter rail in the broader New York City metropolitan region. Last year, she took on the interim presidency of Long Island Rail Road to go with her continued leadership of Metro-North Railroad. Rinaldi had to navigate the LIRR rollout of Grand Central Madison, including train overcrowding. In July, she contended with floods in the Hudson Valley that caused several days of closures along Metro-North’s Hudson Line.
While transportation did not receive the same level of attention in this year’s legislative session as housing or bail reform, lawmakers did address a number of issues on that front. State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, the leader of the state Senate Transportation Committee, passed a freight train safety package following recent freight train accidents. The potential candidate for Buffalo mayor touted projects to cover over the Kensington Expressway in his district to reconnect the original Humboldt Parkway and the overhaul of Interstate 81 in Syracuse. Assembly Transportation Committee Chair William Magnarelli pushed a number of issues including the unsuccessful effort to pass Sammy’s Law, an effort to reduce vehicles from hitting low bridges and blocking an attempt to rename the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
State Sen. Leroy Comrie and Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski led the legislative panels overseeing the state’s vast array of independent authorities, including the sprawling Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Comrie, the longtime state Senate chair, has been active in MTA oversight, saying he wants to hear from those seeking exemptions to congestion pricing and pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul to rethink her Penn Station development plan. Zebrowski took over his committee in January after previously leading the government operations and banking panels. He has outlined an agenda that includes a focus on the MTA’s finances and pushing congestion pricing to take into account suburbanites, including those in his Rockland County district, who need to drive into Manhattan for work.
Carl Weisbrod is about to wade into one of the most challenging assignments of his long career in New York City’s civic affairs: the implementation of congestion pricing. Weisbrod, a former city planning commission chair and city economic development chief, is tasked with leading the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s review board that will set prices and exemptions. The board has to wade through 122 proposed exemptions, including to exempt artists, CUNY students, judges, diplomats and Staten Islanders. Weisbrod is also a senior adviser at the consulting firm HR&A Advisors.
Meera Joshi has found transportation dominating her inbox as New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ top operations deputy. A former acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and city taxi chief, Joshi outlined proposals to rebuild the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with three lanes each way, a plan lacking support from Downtown Brooklyn lawmakers. Joshi was the public face of Adams’ change of heart on plans to redesign McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, supported new speed limit technology and helped lead a birthday party for the Brooklyn Bridge.
Most New Yorkers haven’t heard of Richard Davey and Jamie Torres-Springer, but the two Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have a big impact on how commuters get around. The New York City transit boss and the MTA’s construction chief have jobs that are half long-term strategic planning, half crisis management and a lot of responding to whatever is bothering New Yorkers that hour. Davey, a former Massachusetts transportation secretary, is touting a first year in office that saw crime decrease on the subway, the hiring of more cleaners, the opening of customer service centers and the reopening of bathrooms. Torres-Springer expanded his portfolio to include the rollout of OMNY contactless payment.
Two of the most influential labor leaders in transportation are John Samuelsen and Richard Davis. Samuelsen, whose 150,000 members includes flight attendants, was one of the leading opponents of the proposed JetBlue-Spirit Airlines merger. The former TWU Local 100 president also remains focused on transit issues in New York, serving on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board as well as Traffic Mobility Review Board, which is tasked with setting tolls for congestion pricing. Davis, who took office late last year, pushed for legislation in Albany this year that would amend the state’s Taylor Law and allow subway workers to go on strike. The pair attended a May fundraiser for Gov. Kathy Hochul at Yankee Stadium following budget increases for the MTA.
Leading New York City’s efforts to increase housing and economic development may look like a walk in the park compared to Alicia Glen’s latest task: completing a closely watched infrastructure project of national significance. Glen, a former New York City deputy mayor, is New York’s co-chair of the Gateway Development Commission, which oversees the $16 billion Gateway Program, including a new train tunnel under the Hudson River. President Joe Biden announced a $292 million grant for the project earlier this year.
Bhairavi Desai is willing to work with New York City taxi regulators, but she’s also pretty clear to call them out when she doesn’t see city regulations working for her members. This year, Desai told city taxi boss David Do that he was destroying the relationship between the union and regulators over a plan to expand for-hire vehicles in Upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs when ridership is still down. Desai then filed a lawsuit against the taxi agency in an attempt to overturn the new plan.
Ryan Marzullo took on the seemingly impossible: improving the airport experience for New Yorkers. Marzullo successfully led Delta’s $4 billion plan to reconstruct Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport, part of a plan to remodel the airport. Marzullo is also in charge of the airline’s $1.5 billion investment at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which includes new gates and amenities. Marzullo’s LaGuardia work, which has been called “flashy” by the media, includes space to highlight local artists.
New York has a history of relying on international talent to help fix its transportation infrastructure, whether it’s Britain’s Andy Byford or construction conglomerates from Spain. Similarly, Frank Scremin came to Queens from Hamilton, Ontario, to save LaGuardia Airport – and he succeeded. Scremin led the redevelopment of the airport’s Terminal B, saving the airport from past comparisons to a “Third World country.” Now, Scremin is raking in the accolades, including from the press back home.
Helena Williams’ deep experience in government and transportation now has her spearheading the latest major airport project in New York City, the rebuilding of Terminal 6 at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Williams leads JFK Millennium Partners, the group consisting of Vantage Airport Group, RXR Realty and American Triple I Partners, in the reconstruction of the new terminal. Williams, a former chief deputy county executive in Nassau County, has previously served as president of Long Island Rail Road and Long Island Bus.
With multiple high-profile transportation projects occurring in the New York City metropolitan region, Tom Wright is in the middle of it all. Wright is in the process of implementing the Regional Plan Association’s 2017 regional plan, which called for, among other issues, congestion pricing in Manhattan, an expansion of Penn Station and a new train tunnel under the Hudson River. Wright is focused on the Gateway project and is calling for new funding streams for the city’s mass transit system.
JetBlue is staying in Queens, though CEO Robin Hayes is moving aggressively to expand the airline’s reach. Hayes is currently battling the U.S. Department of Justice, which wants to block the airline’s merger with Spirit Airlines on antitrust grounds. Hayes says JetBlue is planning to grow with or without the merger, but notes the merger would accelerate that growth. The merger would also expand the airline’s fleet and allow for more airports to be served – including more flights to Buffalo, Islip and Syracuse.
New York City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers landed a high-profile post as chair of the legislative body's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In the role, she is pursuing an agenda focused on low-income New Yorkers, including pushing to expand the Fair Fares NYC program and introducing legislation to have police officers provide informational packets on fare assistance programs to fare evaders. Brooks-Powers also serves in the leadership of the City Council as majority whip.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top transportation adviser, Nivardo Lopez is focused on the future of transportation in New York and on such issues on how to best incorporate and use technology in transportation. Among the projects he is working on is a plan to make the state Department of Motor Vehicles more customer friendly, including shifting more transactions online in order to reduce lines. Reducing DMV waits is not a surprise coming from a governor who was on the front lines of the DMV, running the Erie County Auto Bureau while county clerk.
Paging the producers of “Undercover Boss,” New York City’s taxi boss really wants on the show. David Do got his hack license and is hitting the streets to see exactly what the drivers go through. Do, who received a 90% on the exam, said he plans to do at least 100 rides a year but cannot receive fares or tips. Do is likely to hear about one of the top issues facing taxi drivers, the fiscal impact of Uber and Lyft. If you get in Do’s cab, keep an eye out for the Prospect Expressway while on Ocean Parkway – that was Do’s weak spot on the test.
Since December, Frank Hoare has been the interim leader of New York’s 570-mile Thruway system. The state Thruway Authority’s general counsel, Hoare previously served as former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary for legislative affairs. Hoare is presiding over a push to increase Thruway tolls by 4 cents a mile, calling it an investment in the toll road’s future. Hoare also received a $21 million federal bridge grant to restore the Castleton-on-Hudson Bridge that helps connect the Thruway to Interstate 90 in Massachusetts.
Danny Harris is on a mission to make New York City’s streets safer and wants officials to join him. Harris unveiled data that showed more children were killed by motor vehicles last year than in the decade since the city’s Vision Zero initiative launched. Harris wants the state to give up control over city speed limits to the city, a move bottled up in the Assembly. He also unveiled a report showing that poverty and health disparities are linked to poor transit and challenged regulators to crack down on unreadable license plates.
Renae Reynolds wants to reduce air pollution caused by truck traffic, and she sees congestion pricing as one way to do this. In addition to mitigating truck traffic below 60th Street in Manhattan, Reynolds noted that the revenues from the plan would allow improvements to the subways to reduce overall car traffic. Reynolds recently challenged New York City leaders to address traffic issues on the Cross Bronx Expressway, noting the air quality issues in the Bronx.
Federal officials may have given a green light to congestion pricing in Manhattan, but several nearby members of Congress aren’t happy. Staten Island Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Rockland County Republican Rep. Mike Lawler have teamed up with New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer to co-chair the Congressional Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, arguing that the plan would overburden commuters. Malliotakis, whose island famously hates tolls, has called Manhattan Democratic Reps. Dan Goldman and Jerry Nadler “elitist” for supporting congestion pricing.
Josh Gold is willing to take his concerns over state-level public policy straight to Washington, D.C., leaders to push Uber’s agenda. Gold wrote to Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison to say that Illinois’ legislation to subject ride-hailing companies to the same level of liability as other public transportation could hamper the availability of vehicles during next year’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In New York, Gold is part of a group of food delivery apps suing over New York City’s new minimum pay for food delivery workers.
Richard Kennedy has placed construction giant Skanska USA in the middle of key transportation projects across New York. Skanska was involved in the reconstruction of Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, the construction of Moynihan Train Hall and the World Trade Center transit hub. Skanska, which recently announced a move of its own to a new floor in the Empire State Building, also landed a contract to be part of the redesign and rebuilding of roadways around John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Chris Larsen and Paul Atkins have positioned Halmar International to be at the center of many of the top infrastructure projects in New York City. Halmar announced in June that they have teamed with Skanska as part of a $1.24 billion contract to rebuild the roadways around John F. Kennedy International Airport. Halmar is also part of the $2.87 billion Penn Station Access project, which aims to bring Metro-North’s Westchester County and Connecticut commuters to Penn Station.
Being a second termer in the Assembly hasn’t stopped Zohran Mamdani from enacting his transportation vision for New York. The Queens Democrat worked with state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris to successfully push for a free bus pilot program in New York City in this year’s state budget. Mamdani’s Fix the MTA legislative package includes a citywide rollout of the free bus program, a subway fare freeze, massive funding boosts for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and faster subway service. Mamdani and Gianaris show no signs of slowing down to overhaul New York’s mass transit system.
Mark Schroeder wants to make the impossible possible and have New Yorkers stop dreading visits to the DMV. The leader of an agency associated with long lines, bland offices, inefficiencies and the need to take a day to complete one task, said he wants to reinvent the DMV. Schroeder, a former Buffalo city comptroller, has pledged to update technology and move more transactions online. In June, Schroeder unveiled new license plates for 10 regions across the state.
Patricia Reilly is no stranger to tough transportation policy projects in New York. A former deputy commissioner for the state Department of Motor Vehicles under former Gov. Mario Cuomo, she led efforts to reinvent the often maligned DMV. She also was tasked to turn around the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, one of the worst run agencies in the country. At Bolton-St. Johns, she has worked on such issues as New York City’s Vision Zero plan and helped shepherd the law to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants to fruition.
Patrick Knoth and Caroline Samponaro want to get New Yorkers out of four-wheel vehicles and onto the two-wheel kind. Knoth took over at the helm of Citi Bike earlier this year and is now overseeing Citi Bike’s expansion in New York City, including new electric bikes and an increase in docking stations. Samponaro has been working across government to create ways to electrify bike share stations to charge e-bikes on the street and improve availability.
A former state Thruway Authority executive director and longtime transportation expert, Michael Fleischer has established himself as a person to know to navigate the state’s transportation policy landscape. Among Fleischer’s recent activities: working with a business and labor coalition in the Hudson Valley to obtain $1 billion from the state to upgrade Route 17 and assisting the American Concrete Pavement Association of New York on more sustainable and durable concrete usage.
After years as the New York point of contact for engineering firm WSP USA, Jerry Jannetti has moved on to oversee all of the firm’s eastern operations with David Weiss stepping in to oversee the firm’s business in New York. In New York, Jannetti oversaw the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line, the Second Avenue subway and the Canarsie Tunnel. WSP’s East Coast work includes the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel – the largest highway project in Virginia’s history – and onshore power work for PortMiami in Florida.
A top transportation lobbyist at former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato’s Park Strategies, Fred Hiffa brings deep policy experience to the table. Hiffa is a former first deputy state transportation commissioner where he managed the state’s $1.75 billion highway capital program and worked to develop the department’s $4 billion annual budget. As a lobbyist for the Rebuild New York Now coalition, Hiffa has voiced support for the state Thruway Authority’s proposed toll hike, saying it would be an investment in the toll road system.
One of New York City’s top lobbying firms, CMW Strategies has a blue chip roster of transportation policy clients. Michael Woloz, the firm’s longtime leader, and his team represent the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the Trucking Association of New York and a slew of micromobility companies looking to shake up New York’s transportation ecosystem. Woloz also chairs the New York City chapter of the New York League of Conservation Voters and serves on the group’s state board.
David Jones has dedicated his career to elevating low-income New Yorkers. A veteran of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s administration, Jones leads the Community Service Society and serves on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Jones praised Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s decision not to criminally prosecute fare evasion, saying that prosecutions criminalize poverty. As part of his work on the MTA board, he has worked to put a half-price MTA fare into place for New Yorkers living below the poverty line.
Editor’s note: David Jones is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Mike Elmendorf wants to make sure Albany lawmakers know that New York’s roads and bridges are in a code blue level alert and lawmakers need to act. The head of Associated General Contractors of New York State lambasted Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Department of Transportation for not increasing the size of the state’s new five-year capital plan, noting that the federal infrastructure law could have provided more funds. He also said the state’s $500 million allotment for bridge repair will not address the bridge issues statewide.
Federal funding and movement on the Gateway project is music to Robert Wessels’ ears. The leader of The General Contractors Association of New York has made pushing the mega transportation project to build a new train tunnel under the Hudson River and other upgrades to the Northeast Corridor a top priority. Wessels has also been wanting to revamp Penn Station, since the association is co-chair for the Gateway Now Coalition and the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor, including pushing for federal funding and for federal signoff on the project.
Long Islanders are passionate about their roads – or complaining about them – and Marc Herbst wants Albany to care. Herbst, a former ranking minority member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, has been pushing the state to invest more in Long Island’s roadways. He wants the state to address the five Long Island bridges deemed structurally deficient. Herbst also worked with Long Island lawmakers to install license plate readers on the Southern State Parkway to improve safety on the notoriously dangerous highway.
Betsy Plum moved from the New York Immigration Coalition to the Riders Alliance in 2020 and dove headfirst into debates over congestion pricing, Fair Fares NYC and the state of New York City’s mass transit system. Plum has become an outspoken advocate for congestion pricing, noting that it will provide new revenue for subways and buses. Plum has also challenged Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers for not providing more funding to mass transit, saying reduced service is hurting New Yorkers financially.
Michael Kemper has one of the toughest jobs in New York City: keeping the subway safe and making sure New Yorkers aren’t afraid to ride public transit. After taking the reins in December 2022, Kemper has been cheering a decrease in subway crime early this year. Kemper said one key was not just deploying more police into the subway but also positioning them to make sure New Yorkers can see them. Kemper previously commanded the patrol bureau in Brooklyn South and the 76th and 90th Precincts in Brooklyn.
Kendra Hems has an aggressive agenda for New York’s trucking industry. She wants state officials to end the highway use tax for trucks, saying that trucking companies need the money to pay for new electric vehicles. She is pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the latest version of the Grieving Families Act, arguing it would up costs for trucking companies and consumers. Hems is also leading a campaign to reduce truck driver shortages and working with New York City officials on truck safety on city roads.
New York’s truckers have had a tough few years, between the COVID-19 pandemic, the national supply chain crisis that ensued, battles over the location of last mile delivery centers, pollution issues and parking. Ken Thorpe has been in the middle of those debates across New York, including discussions over enforcement of double parking on New York City streets. Thorpe says supply chain and logistics issues are moving past the crisis level of recent years.
Ron Sherman has been a key player and advocate for cab companies in the debate over the future of New York City’s ever-evolving taxi industry. Sherman worked to develop a new partnership between cab companies and Uber to allow for New York City’s yellow cabs to be featured on the ride-hailing app, bringing potential new business to the city’s cab drivers, who have been in fierce competition with such apps. He has also advocated for congestion pricing exemptions for taxi drivers.
The New York International Auto Show is an iconic annual event, drawing potential car buyers and automobile enthusiasts to the Javits Center every spring. With the largest auto show in North America coming back post-pandemic, Mark Schienberg, the leader of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, promised a better event than before COVID-19. Schienberg represents a $60 billion a year industry that includes 64,000 jobs across the state, with franchised car dealers being engaged in increasing electric vehicle sales.
Fare evasion cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $690 million last year, according to a new report released by an MTA panel co-chaired by NYU McSilver Institute Executive Director Rosemonde Pierre-Louis and former New York City Bar Association President Roger Juan Maldonado. The panel issued a series of recommendations on how the cash-strapped transit agency could address fare evasion, including new high-tech subway gates, increasing fare enforcement on city buses and a new public education campaign.
When summer driving season or any holiday that causes more Americans to take to the roads commences, Robert Sinclair Jr. is bound to be popping up to chat with everyone from Kelly Ripa to local newscasters about driver safety and other tips. Sinclair even appears on broadcasts and newspapers overseas in his role as AAA’s public face in New York and beyond. John Corlett has a lower profile, but he’s well known to transportation policymakers across the Northeast as AAA’s top lobbyist, wading into debates ranging from highway safety to congestion pricing.
Gerard Bringmann has taken on a number of tough volunteer advocacy roles in retirement. He is the associate director for advocacy for Suffolk Region PTA. He also leads the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee and the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council and serves as an MTA board member representing LIRR riders. Bringmann has found himself in the thick of debates over the MTA’s botched start of LIRR service at Grand Central Madison and proposed fare hikes.
A well-known researcher in the transportation sector, Sarah Kaufman runs one of New York City’s leading transportation policy think tanks. Kaufman oversees projects relating to autonomous vehicle policy, women’s safety needs, transportation and micromobility. In June, the Rudin Center released a report analyzing Buffalo’s response to the deadly December 2022 blizzard and issued a list of recommendations to upgrade Buffalo’s infrastructure, emergency communications and vehicle fleet to respond to future storms.
No journalist is more in tune with New York City’s transportation issues, particularly related to roads and traffic, than Gersh Kuntzman. Streetsblog outlined the New York City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s bill passage track record, covered the debate over the future of McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint after Mayor Eric Adams made a U-turn in his decision earlier this year, and Kuntzman also detailed Adams’ bizarre feud with Council Member Lincoln Restler over the issue.
The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York’s John T. Evers advocates on behalf of the state’s engineering companies. Representing over 500 companies, Evers’ group is a strong supporter of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s five-year plan to grow capital construction work across the state. Evers, a former lobbyist with The Business Council of New York State, is also supportive of plans by the New York City Department of Buildings to incorporate drones for building inspections.
New Yorkers will get OMNY vending machines at every subway station this summer, amid the ongoing rollout of the contactless payment system – which Christian Henry is overseeing at Cubic Transportation Systems. The system, which will eventually replace MetroCards, offers a more seamless experience for transit commuters. While OMNY has yet to be expanded to commuter rail, Cubic did win the 2023 Ticketing Enabler of the Year award at the Transport Ticketing Global summit for its OMNY work.
No name is more synonymous with New York City traffic than Sam Schwartz. The longtime transportation policy thought leader and onetime city traffic commissioner is not shying away from using his pulpit to help shape policy. Schwartz is advocating against a plan being considered by Mayor Eric Adams to widen the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway as part of a rebuilding of the crumbling roadway, warning it would endanger Brooklyn Bridge Park. He is also pushing city leaders to give truck drivers congestion pricing credits to avoid pushing more trucks onto the Cross Bronx Expressway and exacerbating air quality issues.
A longtime player in New York’s bridge construction scene, Jeff DiStefano is leading Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors as the state embarks on another round of repairing bridges. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced the completion of the company’s work to replace the Route 28 bridge over Esopus Creek in Mount Tremper. Last year, Hochul also announced that the company would be part of a $84.2 million contract to complete five miles of reconstruction work of the state Thruway in Onondaga County.
Carm Basile is looking for new ways to keep Capital Region residents moving. The longtime Albany area transit chief, who has served as CEO of the Capital District Transportation Authority since 2009, announced a new electric car rental program through his agency earlier this year. In March, Basile announced plans to look into expansion of the system into Warren County by taking over a transit system in Glens Falls. This expansion would follow one last year by the authority into Montgomery County.
Stephanie Barber Geter is a New Yorker who gets stuff done. Buffalo’s leading advocate to cap the Kensington Expressway, restore the Humboldt Parkway and reconnect Buffalo’s East Side, Geter made the project a national priority. On St. Patrick’s Day, U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined Geter, Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and others to award Buffalo $55 million, the largest Reconnecting Communities grant in the country, for the project. Geter promised her neighbors, “East Buffalo will be what you want it to be.”
Charles Komanoff, an advocate for congestion pricing, is now pushing his own plan to increase funding for the always cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority: institute a statewide carbon tax. Komanoff argues that the carbon tax would bring in revenue to cover the $1 billion the MTA needs and would also bring in $2 billion a year for the state to address other issues. New York would not be alone, as California and Washington have instituted state carbon taxes.
Stephanie Lotshaw is worried about the future of the country’s public transportation system. With more Americans working from home, public transportation systems are seeing a decline in fare revenue. Lotshaw is pushing more public investment in mass transit to address the pending crunch, saying a collapse of public transportation will hurt Americans. Lotshaw, who has worked on bus rapid transit in Uganda and Kenya, took the acting executive director slot earlier this year after David Bragdon stepped down.
Phil Jones wants New Yorkers to be zipping around on electric scooters, preferably shared ones from Lime. Jones, a former legislative and labor staffer, has been working to expand the San Francisco-based micromobility company’s shared scooter program in New York City, including working with the city Department of Transportation to make an East Bronx shared scooter pilot program permanent. An expansion into Queens is planned for 2024.
These days, people waiting to board a flight expect to have high-speed internet to check email, read the news or scroll through social media. Mike Finley’s Boingo is making sure air travelers have all that, as the company is working to install 5G at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City along with Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal. Boingo has also partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on 5G-related projects to increase connectivity at other transportation hubs.
Scott Thornton is presiding over a growing ferry system that has transported everyone from hipsters in Greenpoint to excited Taylor Swift fans. NYC Ferry announced restored full service to Greenpoint following several weeks of construction-related disruption. The ferry system also introduced plans for faster ferries in Brooklyn. In July, NYC Ferry hosted a Taylor Swift listening party on their boats, delighting seafaring Swifties. Last year, the Adams administration announced a NYC Ferry Forward plan that included a new discount program.
Miguel Velázquez took over as the Rochester area’s top mass transit official at the beginning of the year, following over two decades with the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. Velázquez told Orleans County lawmakers earlier this year that bus use in the rural county is only at 57% of pre-pandemic levels, but he noted increased use of electric buses and new technology for rural transit. Velázquez also outlined a new bus stop snow removal partnership with Rochester officials.
A musician turned city councilor, Joe Driscoll is now in a third act leading Syracuse’s efforts as part of the state’s plan to tear down the Interstate viaduct running through the city and turn it into a street-level grid boulevard. The project aims to reconnect the historically Black 15th Ward with the rest of the city. Driscoll said his goal is to work with community members to build support for the project, including assuring that the project would not cause gentrification in the 15th Ward and touting a $1 billion community investment plan for the ward that includes youth recreation centers, a high school stadium, housing and more.
Not everyone in Syracuse wants the Interstate 81 viaduct cutting through the city torn down and replaced by a community grid boulevard. Former Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland are leading a group, along with several suburban towns, seeking to block the project, though their court cases have been unsuccessful so far. Garland, who represents communities adjacent to the highway, said that he could see the reconnecting of the 15th Ward to the rest of Syracuse after the highway’s removal could lead to gentrification in the historically Black neighborhood. Suburban leaders argue the viaduct’s removal would harm businesses near the I-81 and state Thruway interchange in Salina. Salina Supervisor Nick Paro has called for the state Thruway to be free in Onondaga County to make up for the removal of I-81.
One of the most innovative municipal transportation leaders in New York City history, Janette Sadik-Khan moved from being New York City’s transportation commissioner under then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg to a role at Bloomberg Associates, advising governments about transportation. Sadik-Khan continues to push major overhaul to transportation, including calling for voters in Tampa, Florida, to pass a new county transportation surtax to fund various projects such as a bus system expansion.
New Yorkers from the Bronx to Syracuse are now zipping around on electric scooters from Veo. The scooter company, co-founded by the Los Angeles-based Candice Xie, offers traditional stand-up scooters along with sit-down models and has expanded its scooter rental program to spots across New York City and in New Rochelle, Syracuse and Rochester. Veo’s presence is growing nationally, including scooter docking stations in West Lafayette, Indiana, near Purdue University and a partnership with Santa Monica tourism officials to provide free helmets to tourists.
Michael Carrube has shown he is a fighter for the supervisors of all subway platform operations. Carrube negotiated a new contract for his members this year that includes a 9.5% raise over four years and lifetime health benefits. In April, when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged someone who pushed a subway supervisor onto the tracks with a misdemeanor, Carrube called the decision “outrageous” and said Bragg needed to follow a new state law making the charges a felony.
New York’s private school bus contractors transport 2.3 million students across the state to and from school and serve 85% of the state’s school districts. Nick Vallone understands the importance of this work as president of New York’s trade group for private bus contractors. Vallone, who’s also the executive vice president of Rolling V Bus, has worked with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration to allow approved third parties to conduct commercial driver license testing to address a driver shortage. Vallone’s group also received 10% of the seats on a state advisory panel on electric school bus implementation.
New Yorkers want to remain connected wherever they are – and that includes when they are riding underground. Transit Wireless, a subsidiary of Boldyn Networks (formerly BAI Communications), has led the efforts to install free public access Wi-Fi in the New York City subway system. The growing company has also seen some recent leadership changes: Melinda White led Transit Wireless as CEO until early summer, and Christos Karmis took over as CEO of Boldyn Networks on July 1. In February, Transit Wireless announced that it will double its 5G fiber network in the MTA.
Marc Buncher is pushing for high-speed rail in the United States and across New York. The leader of the transportation technology company Siemens Mobility, Buncher has worked on projects to bring dual-mode locomotives to Metro-North Railroad and a new signaling system for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Buncher is involved in pushing high-speed rail on a national level, including participating in round table discussions with U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Pete Buttigieg and industry leaders on the subject.
Frank Reig wants to make it easier to own an electric vehicle in New York City. Reig’s Revel, known for its rental mopeds, has outlined plans to build more fast-charging sites around the city for electric vehicles, to address one of the larger concerns of potential electric vehicle owners. Revel currently operates two EV charging site in Brooklyn. The decision to expand into EV charging in New York City, along with its moped and all electric vehicle ride-hailing business, is unrelated to Revel ending its moped rental business in Washington, D.C.
While privately operated airport terminals are common around the world, they are relatively new to the United States, with Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport being the first. Roel Huinink, who leads JFKIAT, Terminal 4’s operator, has been leading a redevelopment of the international terminal, including new retail and dining options, making it a showcase of New York City for international arrivals. JFKIAT’s parent company, Netherlands-based Royal Schiphol Group, is looking to expand its American operations.
The 100,000 for-hire vehicle drivers in New York City toil day in and day out behind the wheel of large black cars, plus Ubers and Lyfts. Ira Goldstein has been fighting for them to receive various health benefits and other benefits, particularly during the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic. Goldstein last year secured an increase of the surcharge on these rides from 2.5% to 3% to expand the health benefits available to his members. The increased benefits include dental exams and cleanings, as well as vision.
Maria Lehman’s influence in transportation and infrastructure extends far beyond the borders of Erie County, where she once served as public works commissioner. Lehman currently serves as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, advocating for civil engineers across the country. She is also the vice chair of President Joe Biden’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council, where she pledged to “unleash innovation.” Both positions give her influence in the current national debate over the implementation of Biden’s signature infrastructure law.
A leading transportation attorney, Matthew Daus brings deep experience in New York City government to representing clients across the sector. Previously the longest-serving leader of the city Taxi and Limousine Commission, Daus is now a top thought leader on transportation issues, helping to set debates on a range of subjects from for-hire vehicles to COVID-19 and transportation. Since 2009, Daus has also served as president of the International Association of Transportation Regulators.
States around the country are investing in unmanned aircraft systems as a growth industry, and New York has a UAS test facility at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, operated by NUAIR. One of only seven Federal Aviation Administration certified UAS test facilities in the country, the state has invested $35 million in the project, which includes a 50-mile flight corridor that allows for beyond visual line of sight flying. NUAIR has worked to develop the UAS Center for Excellence partnership between New York and Israel, and created a drone pilot program for state Thruway Authority bridge inspections.
Cycling advocate Kenneth Podziba is looking to help the asylum-seekers and other immigrants arriving in New York City move around the city better. Podziba announced that Bike New York will be providing immigrants with newly renovated bicycles, along with new bike helmets, locks and riding lessons. He noted it was to allow the immigrants to save money on mass transit and better get around the city. A former city sports commissioner, Podziba also runs the annual five borough bike tour and is chair of the League of American Bicyclists.
New York City’s first chief fleet officer, Keith Todd Kerman commands over 30,000 city-owned vehicles, the nation’s largest municipal fleet. But his role goes beyond maintaining cars and deciding between Buicks and Fords. He is tasked with making city vehicles safer on the roads and in implementing a clean energy program for the city’s vehicle fleet, which includes 19,000 vehicles operating on some form of alternative fuel, including hybrids and electric vehicles.
Deepti Ramakrishna holds key roles in New York for Conduent and specializes in electronic tolling technology, working closely with state and local toll agencies. Ramakrishna’s work in tolling began with work on the Port Mann/Highway 1 project in Vancouver in 2011, and she joined Conduent in 2017. Recently, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled new prototype subway turnstiles designed to reduce fare evasion – turnstiles that were designed by Conduent Transportation, which designed similar turnstiles for Paris’ transit hubs.
Transportation technology is a growing part of the transportation sector with local governments looking to implement new technology practices. Verra Mobility has been a leader in the transportation technology space, including working with New York officials on the technology behind such issues as cashless toll roads. New York was one of the first states to adopt cashless tolls with more states nationally unveiling plans to catch up to the Empire State.
A leading construction law attorney specializing in transportation and infrastructure projects, Paul Monte has been at the center of some of New York’s highest-profile infrastructure projects in recent years. Monte has worked with clients involved with the Second Avenue subway, the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport and Long Island Rail Road third track. He remains active in numerous construction groups and bar associations.
County highway superintendents are responsible for more than 20,000 miles of roads and 9,000 bridges in New York. The New York State County Highway Superintendents Association wants Albany to know that these local roads matter. This year, the group pushed increased funding for local roads, saying inflation has increased road construction costs by 22% and that local officials plow over a quarter of state-owned roads during snow storms. Kevin Rooney, Wayne County’s public works and highway superintendent, is the association’s president and organized more than 600 local highway officials to descend on the state Capitol in March.
The 57,365 miles of roads and over 3,000 bridges in the state’s 933 towns are maintained by town highway superintendents and represent 65% of New York’s roads. David Miller, the elected highway superintendent in the Niagara County town of Lockport, is the president of the New York State Association of Town Highway Superintendents. Miller’s group has pushed for new local transportation programs and funding, with a 45% increase in local transportation funding over the last four years and has worked with state officials to bring a more local decision-making process to the Bridge NY program.
Leroy Morrison got a victory in Albany this year when the state Legislature advanced legislation to bolster New York City’s dollar van industry to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk. Morrison, the owner of Alexis Van Lines in Brooklyn, has long been the top spokesperson for the dollar van industry, which has seen the number of fully insured and licensed vans operating in the city drop by 85% since 2019. Morrison’s legislative victory includes lower insurance rates for van operators and a state fund to bolster the industry.
Debbie Marks Kahn and Amy Cohen never set out to be transportation safety advocates. Kahn, whose son was killed in a bus collision in 2009, and Cohen, whose son was killed by a speeding van in Brooklyn in 2013, are co-founders of Families for Safe Streets. Cohen was at the center of this year’s push to pass Sammy’s Law, named after her son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, which would lower city speed limits from 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour, even staging a hunger strike to get lawmakers to act. While the bill got the necessary home rule message from the city and passed in the state Senate, it didn’t advance in the Assembly.
One of the most powerful transportation union leaders in New York, Anthony Simon wields tremendous influence on the operation of the Long Island Rail Road and delivers for his members. A onetime LIRR station cleaner and conductor, Simon has led SMART since 2006, working with state officials on projects including East Side Access and the LIRR’s third track. Simon’s clout was evident on the inaugural LIRR third track ride, as he sat next to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
A public-private partnership between Suffolk County, Islip and JLL is moving forward on Midway Crossing, a $2.8 billion transit-oriented development centered around the Long Island Rail Road station in Ronkonkoma. The over 170-acre project includes a life sciences and commercial hub, including an expansion of the Long Island innovation corridor, new retail, a 300,000-square-foot convention center, a hotel, a new park, infrastructure upgrades and a connection between the LIRR and adjacent Long Island MacArthur Airport. The Long Island Regional Planning Council has deemed the project one of regional significance.
As the voice of New York’s aviation industry, the New York Aviation Management Association has been focused recently on issues related to helicopters in Manhattan. The group was part of a coalition of helicopter-related associations and companies that persuaded Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the “Stop the Chop” bill late last year. The association is now involved in working with the New York City Council over proposed helicopter legislation. Greg Topping, regional design manager with McFarland Johnson Inc., is the association’s president.
NICE Bus serves as a mass transit system for Nassau County, along with parts of western Suffolk County and eastern Queens. Jack Khzouz, NICE’s leader since 2018, has been working to keep Long Islanders moving on a system created in 2012. Recently honored by Nassau Community College, Khzouz notes that the system transports 70,000 people a day. NICE partners with the United Way to provide free rides to those identified as “least advantaged.”
Wendy Holsberger wants suburban communities to start thinking of themselves as “surban.” Surban is a community planning philosophy being advanced by VHB focused on suburban communities outside of urban areas that have downtowns and commuter transit and are becoming popular with millennials. The plan is to work with towns on transit-oriented development, walkable environments, high-density housing and a plethora of downtown dining, retail and entertainment options sought by millennial homebuyers. Holsberger will be leading VHB’s newly combined Long Island, Westchester and Albany presence.
Henry Greenidge, a longtime transportation policy leader in New York, returned to Cruise Automation, an autonomous vehicle firm, earlier this year as its senior manager for new markets. Greenidge, a senior adviser to then-U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Anthony Foxx in the Obama administration, had worked at Cruise prior to a stint as an executive vice president at Tusk Strategies. Greenidge, a former fellow at NYU’s McSilver Institute, also was a transportation adviser in the de Blasio administration.
Robert Wiesenthal left his job as Warner Music’s second in command to found Blade Air Mobility, which allows customers to book helicopters to travel quickly between Manhattan and nearby airports and the Hamptons. Blade recently announced plans to debut new electric and almost silent helicopters in New York City, addressing noise complaints. The company is seeing heavy growth in Europe, with clients using the service to reach ski resorts in the Swiss and French Alps and to travel between Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and Monaco.
Mary Staropoli wants to get Rochesterians out of their cars. Staropoli’s group, Reconnect Rochester, has been busy redesigning the intersection of Orange and Orchard streets to increase safety, implementing new cycling programs and installing cubes to provide bus stop seating. The group has been engaged in working with Monroe County and Rochester officials on active transportation plans, pushed the county to relaunch a driver safety awareness campaign and worked with Rochester officials on plans to repurpose an old Erie Canal aqueduct and to rewrite Rochester’s zoning regulations.
Joseph Rappaport is willing to take on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and say Gov. Kathy Hochul lacks “common sense” if it will help New Yorkers with disabilities. Rappaport successfully sued the MTA to force accessibility upgrades in subway stations, and he criticized the transit agency’s decision to close Manhattan’s Access-A-Ride screening center, including the suggestion that one Manhattanite with disabilities travel to Staten Island for screening. Last year, he said Hochul’s decision to lift mask requirements on mass transit were “disturbing” and “flying in the face of science and plain common sense.”
Rick Horan wants to make it easier for residents of the Rockaways to travel into Manhattan. The executive director of QueensRail Corp., Horan wants to convert the old Rockaway Branch rail line into a 3.5-mile subway extension to Forest Hills. Horan has been to get state lawmakers to fund a Metropolitan Transportation Authority feasibility study, but he has said the study’s $8.1 million cost estimate is inflated. Horan broached the idea with noncommittal aides to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
One of the key transportation issues facing urban communities is reconnecting neighborhoods cut off by highways. In Albany, a group is pushing to reconnect New York City with the Hudson River, a prospect currently blocked by Interstate 787. The Albany Riverfront Collaborative, founded by Scott Townsend, a principal at architectural firm SWBR, has been pushing to replace I-787 with a street-level boulevard that would open access to the riverfront. The group has gained support from Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, who helped advance a state study of the proposal.
Suburbanites are buzzing about Boxcar, a multifaceted transportation disruptor app that is growing in the New York City suburbs. Boxcar co-founders Joe Colangelo and Owen Lee guarantee seats on private commuter buses with multiple dropoff points across midtown Manhattan. The app also runs a program where private residents can rent out driveway space for commuter parking on a daily basis, which is gaining traction in the outer boroughs. The company also offers auto detailing, knife sharpening and grill detailing services to commuters.
Paul Weinstein is pretty much saying “what’s New Jersey got to do with it” as he wants to keep the Waterfront Commission rolling on the river. After the U.S. Supreme Court granted New Jersey’s request for a divorce, Weinstein will keep the “On the Waterfront” agency alive on New York’s side of the Hudson. If Weinstein’s solo act has the same success as Tina Turner’s post-Ike career, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will be saying “I coulda been a contender.” Weinstein is also the co-chair of Emmet, Marvin & Martin’s litigation department in New York City.
This article has been corrected regarding Lyft's electric bike program and updated regarding Revel's number of electric charging stations in Brooklyn and vehicle makes in their fleet. A previous version of this article had incorrectly listed Greg Topping's job, this has been corrected.
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