Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was in a bind.
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The New York Burghal alms arrangement was falling afar and demography the governor’s approval appraisement bottomward with it. Looming architecture at Pennsylvania Base was sparking fears of a “summer of hell” for commuters. And the job of administering it all had been abandoned for six months, with no bright applicant for the post.
Mr. Cuomo assuredly begin a bounded busline arch aftermost June, borer Joseph J. Lhota, a admired administrator with a spotless résumé, including a broadly accepted assignment in the aforementioned position in 2012.
But there was a catch: Mr. Lhota would alone accede to acknowledgment to advance the Metropolitan Busline Ascendancy on the action that he could accumulate his full-time job as the arch of agents of one of the state’s bigger hospital networks — and additionally absorb the advantage to accompany any added paid lath that he wanted.
Eleven months later, an assay by The New York Times has begin that Mr. Lhota’s ability as a ability agent has developed with new lath accessories in Manhattan and on Continued Island, giving him amazing amplitude over some of the best important aspects of New York life. But while Mr. Lhota charcoal a admired official, his growing web of jobs has led to abeyant conflicts of absorption and antagonism for his time, complicating the still-flailing accomplishment to alleviate a alteration arrangement acclimated by millions of bodies every day.
Nobody has anytime led the M.T.A. while acclimation as abounding added administration posts as Mr. Lhota, according to a analysis of ahead unreported calendars and acknowledgment statements and interviews with added than two dozen ascendancy employees, advocates and experts, including four accomplished alteration chiefs.
Mr. Lhota’s primary employer, N.Y.U. Langone Health, is a all-inclusive arrangement of 230 hospitals, clinics and outpatient accessories that has been aggressively alive to expand. Despite adage that he had not lobbied for the hospital arrangement while arch the M.T.A., acknowledgment annal appearance Mr. Lhota in contempo months has lobbied burghal admiral for bigger cartage admission and talked with accompaniment admiral about regulations.
Another arresting institution, Madison Square Garden, assassin Mr. Lhota as a paid lath affiliate aftermost December — aloof as it was entering negotiations with the M.T.A. and the accompaniment about the approaching of Penn Station, which sits beneath the Garden. The negotiations could advance to hundreds of millions of dollars’ actuality paid to the aggregation in acknowledgment for the abatement of a amphitheater from the site, three bodies accustomed with the talks said.
And Mr. Lhota additionally actively helps advance several added boards that accept their own visions for accessible transit, including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Healthcare Association of New York State. One board, the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, is gluttonous abutment for a city-run streetcar line.
In all, Mr. Lhota becoming added than $2.5 actor in 2017 for his assignment at N.Y.U. Langone and on eight altered boards — about $1 actor added than the antecedent year, afore he took the M.T.A. job, his banking disclosures show.
Mr. Lhota’s predecessor, Thomas F. Prendergast, like about all added alteration chiefs in the history of the M.T.A., formed alone at the alteration ascendancy and did not serve on alfresco paid boards.
In an interview, Mr. Lhota said that his added jobs did not affectation conflicts because he was not absolutely an M.T.A. official. He said he had absent the $300,000 M.T.A. bacon he was advantaged to and delegated his responsibilities to several added executives, except for chairing the authority’s lath of admiral and ambience its high-level mission.
“The circadian operations of the M.T.A. are in added hands,” he said. He compared himself to Peter S. Kalikow, a developer who led the M.T.A. lath in the aboriginal 2000s and assassin a abstracted arch controlling to administer operations.
But annal and interviews casting agnosticism on that comparison. The M.T.A.’s own authoritative blueprint lists Mr. Lhota as “Chairman and CEO.” It additionally shows that 10 altered ascendancy advisers address to Mr. Lhota; alone one appear to Mr. Kalikow. Mr. Lhota’s agenda shows that he holds two circadian arrangement calls and a account affair with top officials, and several bodies said that he is the one who fabricated key decisions, like whether to append alternation account during storms.
In fact, a 2009 accompaniment law — accounting partially in acknowledgment to apropos about the anatomy championed by Mr. Kalikow — requires the M.T.A. administrator to additionally serve as the authority’s arch controlling officer.
The governor’s columnist secretary, Dani Lever, said Mr. Lhota was alleged over assorted added candidates “because of his unparalleled ability active the nation’s bigger accessible alteration system.”
“Mr. Lhota is a activated baton who’s broadly admired for his action accuracy and allegation to accessible account and has formed a new administration anatomy that includes world-class talents,” Ms. Lever said. “We’re advantageous to accept him at the captain of the M.T.A.”
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When Mr. Cuomo absitively he capital Mr. Lhota to run the M.T.A. — anon afore declaring a accompaniment of emergency on the alms — he did not alarm him. Instead, he alleged Kenneth G. Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot who is administrator of the lath of N.Y.U. Langone.
“ ‘Would it be accessible for Joe to advice out?’ ” Mr. Cuomo asked, according to Mr. Langone, who had continued been a attack donor to the governor. “We said, ‘It’s accomplished with us, as continued as it doesn’t accommodation his responsibilities at the medical center.’ ”
Activists acclaimed the pick, citation Mr. Lhota’s acquaintance as a agent agent beneath Agent Rudolph W. Giuliani and as M.T.A. administrator in 2012, aback he won so abundant acclaim for bound abating the alms afterwards Hurricane Sandy that he ran for mayor. Afterwards accident to Bill de Blasio, Mr. Lhota abutting N.Y.U. Langone in 2014. Even in the clandestine sector, Mr. Lhota has continued been apparent as a competent administrator and a beeline shooter.
At Mr. Lhota’s acceptance audition on June 21, which was agilely conducted via Skype aloof afterwards Mr. Cuomo fabricated the nomination, Accompaniment Senator Liz Krueger was the alone administrator to accession concerns.
“I anguish that the N.Y.U. job and this job conceivably is too abundant for one person,” Ms. Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, said.
Mr. Lhota vowed to absorb 40 hours account at anniversary job. He already said he slept alone four hours a night.
In his aboriginal month, as Mr. Lhota crafted an emergency plan to fix the subway, he abundantly upheld that promise. Agenda annal appearance that he formed an boilerplate of 38.2 hours per anniversary at the M.T.A. and 31.3 hours elsewhere, not including unscheduled assignment at home.
By winter, Mr. Lhota had assassin a new administration team, and he scaled aback his assignment at the authority. In March, he formed 22.1 hours per anniversary at the M.T.A. and 32.5 hours on added obligations, annal show.
Mr. Lhota said his agenda was an abridged almanac of his M.T.A. assignment and that he generally sacrificed ancestors time and added interests. “I haven’t played a bold of golf back I became chairman,” he said.
Records announce that Mr. Lhota’s clandestine assignment has occasionally interfered with his M.T.A. responsibilities. Mr. Lhota has a 7:30 a.m. circadian arrangement alarm with the admiral who address anon to him, but his calendars appearance that he has had addition allegation during that alarm 29 of the aftermost 50 times it has been held. Mr. Lhota additionally has met with M.T.A. admiral at N.Y.U. Langone on at atomic two occasions.
When a crisis has struck, Mr. Lhota has sometimes been elsewhere. Aftermost July, he was at N.Y.U. Langone aback a clue blaze at a alms base in Harlem afflicted nine people; aftermost December he was at a affair at Madison Square Garden aback snow abstruse service; and aftermost week, he was active to a Greater New York Hospital Association affair aback a above storm affected the abeyance of Metro-North trains.
Mr. Lhota additionally angered the Burghal Council aback he absent a audition and larboard addition early. “I anticipate if he wants to ask us for funding, he should be actuality and ask himself,” Jumaane D. Williams, a Council member, said at an August hearing.
Transit activists accept questioned Mr. Lhota’s ability from the governor and complained that he does not accept time for them. Nick Sifuentes of the Tri-State Busline Attack provided emails assuming requests for affairs that he said were ignored. “Lhota is absolutely the apparition in the machine,” Mr. Sifuentes said.
Still, Mr. Lhota has affluence of supporters who accept he is authoritative the alms a priority. Several accepted him for authoritative acute hires, including installing Andy Byford as the baton of New York Burghal Transit, the analysis of the M.T.A. that oversees the subway.
“I curiosity at his energy,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, the admiral of the Partnership for New York City, a business group. “The governor put him in to clean assurance in the M.T.A., and he’s accomplishing a actual acceptable job of that.”
N.Y.U. Langone’s capital campus is in Midtown Manhattan, application a array of arrangement barrio overlooking the East River. Admission is provided by East 33rd Street, which is a one-way artery — for now.
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For months, annal show, N.Y.U. Langone has been blame the burghal to accomplish the artery a two-way road. And the allegation has been led by Mr. Lhota, a registered lobbyist whose job at the bloom arrangement includes confined as a “representative and agent to alien constituents, including government and adopted officials.”
The artery change is aloof one of N.Y.U. Langone’s priorities. The aggregation that Mr. Lhota helps advance additionally has lobbied the accompaniment apropos allotment for axis corpuscle analysis research, academy bloom centers and association bloom centers, according to acknowledgment forms. Mr. Lhota said he alone had talked with the accompaniment bloom abettor about regulations and architecture construction, although a agent said Mr. Lhota had not discussed funding.
Mr. Lhota said he had registered as a lobbyist “out of an affluence of caution.”
Mr. Lhota’s lobbying has occurred quietly. Even the governor’s columnist secretary said she was not acquainted of it. “Mr. Lhota is not appropriate to accommodate us with the capacity of his affairs apropos N.Y.U. Langone as continued as they are not in battle with the M.T.A.,” she said.
State law confined accessible admiral from lobbying added accessible officials, and belief experts accept warned that any lobbying by Mr. Lhota could be decidedly ambiguous because it could advance to horse-trading with assembly gluttonous bigger alteration admission for constituents.
When questioned in the past, Mr. Lhota has denied lobbying while arch the M.T.A., but he has additionally claimed, nevertheless, that he could antechamber after active afield of any laws because he was not an M.T.A. official. He additionally has said that the state’s Joint Agency on Accessible Belief had bent that lobbying would be permissible.
Mr. Lhota beneath to absolution the belief assurance to The Times, adage it was “personal.” But he accustomed that it had appear in an email, not through a academic determination. Belief agency admiral said they could not absolution the email because of acquaintance rules.
The M.T.A. said that in the aftermost 11 months, it had not fabricated any decisions affecting N.Y.U. Langone that appropriate Mr. Lhota to recuse himself.
(A few months afore abutting the M.T.A., Mr. Lhota wrote an op-ed arguing that convalescent alteration admission to neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that had been “underserved by acceptable medical care” — and area N.Y.U. Langone now has a hospital — should be a “critical burghal priority.” It is cryptic whether the M.T.A. has addressed that issue.)
Over the winter, N.Y.U. Langone bought hundreds of ads at alms stations, but Mr. Lhota said he played no role because the M.T.A.’s ads are handled by a contractor, Outfront Media. An Outfront agent beneath to say whether N.Y.U. Langone was answerable the accustomed rate.
N.Y.U. Langone paid Mr. Lhota amid $2.35 actor and $2.45 actor in 2017, up from about $1.7 actor in 2016, according to acknowledgment statements. Mr. Lhota and an N.Y.U. Langone backer both said the accession was “bonus-related.” Neither would elaborate.
Mr. Langone said Mr. Lhota had never absent a affair at N.Y.U. Langone. He compared him to Admiral Trump.
“When they asked Trump’s doctor, ‘How does he do it?’ What did he say? He said ‘genes.’ ” Mr. Langone said. “And that’s Joe Lhota too.”
To critics, Mr. Lhota’s bigger battle involves The Madison Square Garden Aggregation and an affiliated entity, MSG Networks.
MSG Networks assassin Mr. Lhota as a lath affiliate in 2016 and The Madison Square Garden Aggregation assassin him to its lath aftermost December. He had ahead formed as the controlling carnality admiral for The Madison Square Garden Company. The two posts are accepted to pay about $300,000 accumulated annually.
The December hire, which was aboriginal appear by Politico, abashed alteration activists because of the Garden’s assurance on the M.T.A. — Penn Base has six alms curve and houses the Continued Island Rail Road, which is additionally operated by the authority.
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Talks accept been activity on for years about remaking Penn Base into a armpit that is bigger for travelers and additionally takes advantage of the befalling for development in a advancing absolute acreage market. But negotiations started heating up afresh backward aftermost fall, according to three sources accustomed with the action who batten on the action of anonymity because they were not accustomed to altercate the affair publicly.
One of the options, the sources said, is the abatement of the 5,500-seat Hulu Amphitheater to accomplish allowance for a admirable admission to Penn Base from Eighth Avenue. That would crave compensating the Garden, and the admeasurement of the advantage is a above point of contention.
The Garden’s top executive, James L. Dolan, is a longtime donor to Mr. Cuomo, but advocates said it could not aching to appoint Mr. Lhota during the talks.
Mr. Lhota said he had recused himself from any discussions about the check of Penn Station. A Madison Square Garden backer said in a statement, “We accept Joe is a valued, absolute affiliate of our lath who acts with the accomplished integrity.”
On Friday, the M.T.A. appear it was complex in a “planning process” apropos the terminal.
The terminal is not the alone battle involving The Madison Square Garden Company. The aggregation is additionally an broker in a activity to body an amphitheatre for the New York Islanders at Belmont Park on Continued Island, and activity leaders accept said the armpit needs bigger alteration admission to be successful.
Mr. Lhota said he had recused himself from that issue, too. But aback asked about the proposed amphitheatre at a account audition in Albany in January, he answered at length.
Though Mr. Lhota said he had abhorred talks about renovating Penn Station, he has not hesitated to participate in decisions about improvements to two alms stations that serve the stadium, which arguably would additionally account Madison Square Garden.
In February, he voted for a amalgamation afore the lath that included allotment for renovations to the stations. Mr. Lhota said his accord was accustomed by the M.T.A.’s accepted counsel.
As a whole, Mr. Lhota said he saw no conflicts in discussing alteration improvements abreast any of the entities that he is complex with, including N.Y.U. Langone.
“Let’s accept the Alms Action Plan is successful, and added bodies can get to an arrangement at the hospital on time,” he said. “Is that a battle of interest, because I assignment at a hospital — that I accustomed citizens in the burghal to get there added efficiently? That’s adamantine to imagine.”
Asked whether it would be a battle if a alms base abreast the hospital got added allotment at the amount of added stations, Mr. Lhota paused afore answering:
“We’ll accept to disagree.”
Derek M. Norman, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Sarah Maslin Nir contributed reporting.
Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter: @brianmrosenthal
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