2011-07-29 / Community

Walder Ditches NYC For Big Asian Bucks

By Howard Schwach

Walder at The Wave office for an interview last year. Walder at The Wave office for an interview last year. Former Arverne resident Jay H. Walder, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the past two years, has resigned his state post in order to take over the MTR Corporation, a transportation company based in Hong Kong, the authority announced on Thursday.

A native Rockaway resident who graduated from PS 42 and then Beach Channel High School, Walder, 52, was selected by Governor David A. Paterson in July 2009 to run the authority, which operates the city’s bus and subway systems and the Metro- North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road. He will leave office on October 21, the authority said.

“I believe that we have accomplished quite a lot in a short period, with the support of two governors, the mayor, a hard-working board and many others,” Walder said in a statement. Sources say that Walder’s departure was entirely his own decision. One source close to Walder described his new post as the type of job that he simply could not refuse.

The fact that he will remain in office for another three months also seems to indicate that the move was voluntary and that Walder was not being pushed out.

The MTR Corporation operates a commuter-rail service in Hong Kong as well as intercity rail services between Hong Kong and Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. It also runs rail systems in London, Stockholm and Melbourne, Australia.

Walder came to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from London, where he had worked on overhauling that city’s aging mass transit system, to global acclaim.

His relatively brief tenure at the helm of the largest American transit agency has been a bit of a bumpy ride, entailing a fare increase and the prospect of even worse financial conditions on the horizon. He has made real-time information about bus arrivals and up-to-the-minute status reports on the subway lines available to the authority’s beleaguered riders even as the news that those updates bring has been increasingly disheartening, with the authority sustaining its worst service cuts in a generation.

For that reason, insiders say, Walder did not make many friends at Transit Workers Union Local 100, which represents 38,000 bus and subway workers.

“Transit workers won’t miss Jay Walder and quite frankly will be glad to see him go,” said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “His attempt last year to blackmail the union into major pay cuts and other concessions led to gratuitous layoffs.”

Many in Rockaway believed that Walder would do great things for his old hometown. Those hopes died, however, when Walder reinstated the toll on the Cross Bay Bridge by removing the resident credit.

Insiders say that Governor Andrew Cuomo has a short list of those whom he may appoint to the job, including NYC Department of Transportation head Jeanette Sadik-Khan, Amtrack president Joseph Boardman and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

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