2009-07-31 / Top Stories

Paterson Names Former Local As MTA Chair

By Howard Schwach

Jay Walder, left, with Governor David Paterson after he was named the new chairman of the MTA. Jay Walder, left, with Governor David Paterson after he was named the new chairman of the MTA. A former Rockaway resident who traveled the A Train route to work in Manhattan each day has been named the new chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by Governor David Paterson.

Paterson recently named Jay Walder, who grew up in Arverne and whose father, Bernie Walder, was a longtime editor of The Wave, to the controversial post.

He now awaits the approval of the State Senate before taking over the job, an approval that will probably not come until some time after Labor Day, Senate officials say.

Walder was born in Indiana, but moved to Arverne when he was only a year old. He attended local schools and graduated from Beach Channel High School.

"I grew up in the Rockaways … literally, and I mean literally across the street from the subway," he told reporters upon his appointment. "We didn't call it the subway, we called it the El."

Walder would seem to have a resumé tailor-made to run the MTA.

He rode the A Line to Manhattan from Rockaway when it took two fares to make the trip and the subway cars were often dangerous and graffiti-full.

He attended Harpur College at Binghamton, a unit of the State University system.

He then received a master's degree in public policy from the John. F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He worked for the MTA from 1983 to 1995, climbing up the ladder from financial analyst to chief financial officer, before heading off to run the London (England) transportation agency.

That should be good news, but not everybody agrees.

Writing about Walder's appointment, Clyde Haberman wrote in the New York Times:

"Whatever complaints you have about the subways today, ask anybody who was around then what the service (not to mention the graffiti) was like pre-1983. A journey underground was a dystopia out of 'Blade Runner.' "

Some locals, however, think that Walder's experience of riding the A Train each day, even if it was in the "bad old days," would translate into better service for the peninsula.

"We finally have somebody who understands the difficulties of public transportation from Rockaway," said John Fenton, who was getting ready to take the subway at Beach 90 Street earlier this week. "It can't hurt to have somebody with that knowledge running the agency."

Of course, like anything else in New York State, Walder's appointment comes with political baggage.

Political insiders say that many of the State Senate members are angry with Paterson over the recent leadership fight and the fact that he forced them to come back in session earlier this month. Those insiders say that the Senate is in no rush to confirm Walder's appointment.

"This is the MTA," said State Senator Karl Kruger of Brooklyn. "It's not as if we're confirming somebody to be the game warden at the Adirondack Park. It is ludicrous to think that this would be done before September."

The Wave contacted the Governor's office asking for an interview with Walder, but our calls have yet to be returned.

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