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John-Ross “JR” Rizzo Joins MTA Board as MTA Board Finance Committee Chair Neal Zuckerman Is Reconfirmed

Updated Jun 14, 2023 11:15 a.m.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that John-Ross “JR” Rizzo is joining the MTA Board, and Neal Zuckerman, who serves as Chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, has been confirmed to a second consecutive term on the MTA Board.

Rizzo is the Ilse Melamid Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health, Associate Professor in the NYU Department of Neurology and holds multiple appointments at NYU Tandon School of Engineering; he also serves and the inaugural Health System Director of Disability Inclusion for NYU Langone Health. His research focuses on motor control with a special emphasis on visual guidance and eye movements, blindness/low vision, and assistive technologies, inclusive of hardware and software-stack development.

Rizzo himself has a rare medical disorder called choroideremia (CHM) that causes atrophy of specialized light-sensitive tissue that lines the retina and a nearby network of blood vessels. CHM, over the past 35 years, has progressively narrowed his field of vision to a small straw-like tunnel in the very center. He has been legally blind for the last 20 years.

In Senate confirmation hearings, Rizzo said he intended to concentrate on creating new opportunities and new pathways to explore concepts of infrastructure minimalism and universal design to address accessibility at every station. Rizzo is well-known for assistive technology research with a particular emphasis on bio-inspired human-in-the-loop wearables. He and his team have also developed a series of mobile apps that enhance a customer’s ability to navigate environments with AI-based mapping technology that reconstructs external space and provides spatial information for localization and wayfinding support. One of the projects underway includes incorporating this technology to help guide riders with disabilities within the subway system. Rizzo compares the development of advanced wearables (wearable computers) to that of a driverless car but instead assisting a pedestrian with a disability.

Rizzo was nominated to the MTA Board by Governor Hochul.

“Dr. Rizzo’s extensive knowledge and award-winning research in issues of disability and applicable technology will bring an innovative perspective as we move aggressively to make the transit system more accessible,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “With his expertise and personal experience, Dr. Rizzo will be a tremendous addition to the MTA Board.”

“While elevators and ramps are necessary components to a station’s accessibility, they are not the finish line,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “Having Dr. Rizzo on the Board will not only provide a voice for customers with disabilities but will bring an enormous amount of knowledge and valuable insight to new technologies that can be explored to redefine accessibility in our transit system.”

"I am humbled and honored to receive this nomination as a physician-scientist who also happens to be blind and a proud New Yorker! The MTA is North America's largest transportation provider with vast travel-area coverage,” said MTA Board Member John-Ross Rizzo. “As an accessibility expert who helps design and study novel assistive technologies, I am very eager to pay this knowledge forward and work with existing leadership to push our system into a barrier-free state so no rider is left behind."

Zuckerman, of Putnam County, was recommended to his second term by Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne.

"Neal Zuckerman's confirmation to the MTA board is a testament to his exceptional dedication and expertise,” said Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne. “As the finance chair, he has proven himself to be an asset to the board, ensuring the financial stability and effectiveness of the Metro-North Railroad system. Despite our differing political affiliations, the people of Putnam County recognize the immense value Neal brings to the board. This non-partisan appointment reflects our shared commitment to serving our community and enhancing the MTA's services for residents."

“Zuckerman’s business acumen and consistent leadership has been instrumental to the MTA over the last few years,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “His dedication to MTA riders goes beyond the Putnam County commuters he represents, extending to the millions of New Yorkers who depend on the transit system. Neal's continued service on the MTA Board is good news for the region.”

“Zuckerman’s financial expertise and understanding of the industry has proven incredibly valuable to the MTA, providing knowledgeable insight as we navigated through the worst financial crisis the Agency has ever faced,” said MTA Chief Financial Officer Kevin Willens. “His guidance, whether on a matter of policy or initiative, highlights his commitment to represent the interests of his community and others, and we're glad to have him back on the Board.”

“I am honored to be re-appointed to a second term on the MTA Board,” said MTA Board Member Zuckerman. “I want to extend my sincerest appreciation to my county executive, Kevin Byrne, for the honor of his recommendation to continue to serve Putnam County and to our state’s senators for their confirmation last Friday. I am particularly honored by the trust that our extraordinary governor, Kathy Hochul, has placed in me to continue to serve as the finance chair of the MTA. I am mindful of the responsibility she has given me to support the stewardship of our $19B annual budget and next five-year capital plan in the midst of a trying fiscal situation. The MTA and the riding public are direct beneficiaries of Governor Hochul’s leadership in recently closing our financial gap, caused by the pandemic and its resulting impact on ridership. I will not let her or the public down in my oversight role as this board and our finance committee serve as careful protectors of the MTA’s financial resources.”

Neal Zuckerman is a senior partner and managing director in the New York office of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm and advisor on business strategy with 81 offices in 48 countries. His professional advisory work is centered on large-scale change for companies in industries undergoing significant disruption, using strategic and financial levers. He works predominantly with media and entertainment companies and serves as head of the firm's media practice. Prior to BCG, Zuckerman served in related roles at Time Warner and McKinsey & Company.

In addition to his role as MTA Board Member, Zuckerman is also a member of National Public Radio (NPR) Board as Chair of Audit and a member of the Columbia Journalism Review Board. Zuckerman was recommended to his first term on the MTA Board in 2016 by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and initially confirmed by the New York State Senate on June 17, 2016. MTA Board terms last for six years.