The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced the appointment of Lourdes Zapata as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Zapata will oversee the MTA’s Department of Diversity and Civil Rights, overseeing the MTA’s continued efforts to provide equitable and inclusive opportunities for both career opportunities within the transit authority and contracting and business opportunities for external parties. Zapata takes over for Tracey Mitchell who has served on an interim basis since Feb. 24.
Zapata served as the Chief Diversity Officer for the State of New York under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo from 2018 to 2019, where she worked on policy and proactive initiatives to increase diversity within the State’s workforce. Most recently Zapata has served as the President and CEO of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO). Zapata originally joined this Bronx nonprofit community and economic development organization in September 1997 as the Director of Community Development. Throughout her work at SoBRO, Zapata has developed and managed over 750 affordable housing units, planning efforts to rezone the Third Avenue corridor, Bruckner Boulevard and other sections of the Bronx. In her return to the organization in August 2019, Zapata made history as its first woman and Latina leader.
“With her wealth of experience, Lourdes is a natural fit to oversee the MTA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, including our best-in-state MWBE/SDVOB contracting program,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “I’m confident that with her at the helm, the MTA will remain an industry leader as we move forward with delivering the historic $55 billion Capital Program and its investments in accessibility, transit equity and State of Good Repair work.”
“The key connector for New Yorkers is mass transit, and there is arguably no better time to join the MTA than right now, as it builds back with a vision for an inclusive transit system,” said MTA Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Lourdes Zapata. “For my part, I will put past lessons to use to further develop and increase participation of minority and women-owned businesses as the MTA embarks on not only improving essential transportation, but also creating job opportunities that affect our communities.”
“I am thrilled to welcome Lourdes Zapata on board," said Chief Administrative Officer Lisette Camilo. “She shares the vision and commitment to keep the MTA among the top New York State agencies – often the best – in diversity contracting. With her passion and years of experience in this field, I am confident that Lourdes will excel in this role and build on the MTA’s successful MWBE program which provides invaluable opportunities for MWBE companies.”
“One of the MTA’s core values is equity and that doesn’t just apply to the transit service we provide,” said Acting Chief Customer Officer and Senior Advisor Shanifah Rieara. “The MTA’s MWBE program is something that we are extremely proud of, and we are excited to welcome Lourdes to lead the diversity and inclusion department. As someone who shares the ambition and goal to equal opportunity, I have no doubt she will keep the MTA a leader in this field and identify contracting opportunities to create more MWBE success stories.”
Zapata has also served the State as Executive Vice President of the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development at Empire State Development (ESD), where she was responsible for the development and oversight of statewide MWBE procurement policy. In that role Zapata oversaw certification, compliance and business development activities, and worked with State commissioners and the Legislature on matters affecting MWBEs.
The MTA has developed one of the country’s leading MWBE Business Development programs and has further supported small businesses through its Construction Small Business Mentoring Program which has awarded over $400 million in contracts. In 2021, Governor Hochul honored the MTA with the Minority- Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Champion Award for awarding the most amount of money to MWBEs out of 97 State agencies.
Zapata was born and raised in the Bronx. She received her Master's degree in Public Administration from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.
"I have had the opportunity to work with Lourdes Zapata in various capacities, from being Chief Diversity Officer of New York State to her roles at ESD and SoBro, and she has always been an informed, respected, and passionate voice for diversity, equity and inclusion," said Senator Leroy Comrie. "This body of experience aligns well with her appointment as the MTA's new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, as we look to bolster the contracts awarded to MWBE's from the MTA's multiple-billion dollar capital program. I look forward to working with her to enhance what I hope will be her efforts to increase certification and broadening access for smaller minority firms."
“Lourdes Zapata is a highly qualified and capable champion for diversity and equity for New York State,” said Assembly Member and Chair of the Subcommittee for Oversight of MWBEs Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn. “I sincerely congratulate Lourdes Zapata on her well-deserved appointment as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the MTA. As North America’s largest public transportation organization, the MTA is an engine for creating inclusive and equitable opportunities through contracting and careers. I’m confident Lourdes will continue leveling the playing field for MWBEs and our city’s diverse workforce.”
“I’m excited by the news that Lourdes Zapata has been named as the MTA’s new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer,” said NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “A strong champion who recognizes the need for diversity is exactly what is needed to fill this critical role. As Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I am cognizant of the fact that residents in too many neighborhoods in our city lack transportation options and our MWBEs are often disproportionately burdened. Equity is the driving force behind all of my work in the Council, and I feel confident that Zapata has a likeminded vision. I had the pleasure of witnessing Lourdes’ passion and commitment firsthand when we worked together on the JFK Redevelopment and I wish her well in this new role.”
As part of today's announcement, two small business owners, Renee Sacks, President & CEO of Sacks Communication, and Everett Perry, President of Urban Ecospaces, shared their experiences particpating in the MTA’s Small Business Mentorship Program and how it has contributed to the development and success of their companies.
“We went in with a kindergarten education as a regular contract and we came out with a PhD,” said President of Urban Ecospaces Everett Perry. “We've had more success, we've developed as a company, and we know more now after going through the MTA training program, going through our first job, which wasn't easy, but we got through it. We don't know what we would have done without a program like this, and we appreciate every opportunity that was given to us.”
“The one thing that the MTA program did is it changed people's lives, even mine, as a consultant to the [MWBE] program, working behind the scenes, working on educational programs, working on outreach – it changed my life as a small, certified company,” said President & CEO of Sacks Communications Renee Sacks. “It also built communities, over 25,000 – probably more today – jobs have been created. Lourdes, you've been changing lives for a long time, and now you're in the perfect spot to continue that mission.”