NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg appeared live on FOX 5 Good Day New York with Rosanna Scotto and Bianca Peters to discuss her leadership of New York City’s subways and buses and her future.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
View the interview here: https://www.fox5ny.com/video/961111
Bianca Peters: It is here last day on the job running the nation's largest subway system.
Rosanna Scotto: Sarah Feinberg was at the helm since the beginning of the pandemic, but she's stepping down today, and she's joining us right here on Good Day New York. Nice to have you here. I'm sorry to see you go.
Sarah Feinberg: Thank you.
Scotto: Why are you leaving? Because we hear that, you know, you're interested in this Co-chairmanship job.
Feinberg: Absolutely. Look if the if the state senate comes back and takes action and splits the positions and makes Janno Lieber CEO and makes myself first woman chair of the MTA, that would be great. I'd be delighted. But it's time for me to step down from the transit presidency job, and I've said that for several weeks now, and today's the day which is unbelievable.
Scotto: You know, I know it’s interim, and the only way that we can find out if, you know, the MTA is going to have this Co-chairmanship job is if the Senate comes back, the State Senate comes back, and they vote. Is this political? I mean, are we at a crisis situation? Do you feel comfortable leaving right now?
Feinberg: Well, look, I feel comfortable leaving right now because I know that I'm leaving transit and very strong hands. So, Demetrius Critchlow who runs subways is out of this world, strong, strategic, brilliant experienced. Craig Cipriano who runs buses, the same, tons of experience, knows what he's doing. So, I'm leaving the place in excellent hands, I know that. Look, it's a 24/7 job, and I've been doing it for 18 months. How many times have you and I talked about, you know, you're doing this for three to six months it's 12 months, it's 14 months.
Scotto: And it's interim, right?
Feinberg: Exactly. And so, it's time for me to step back and go to go pay attention to a couple other elements of my life for a bit.
Peters: I think what we see in the media is that people are so much more than their jobs nowadays, and that must be something that weighed heavy on your heart as a decision to possibly step away. Talk to me about or talk to the viewers about what was going into that decision. What were some of the background things we were thinking about?
Feinberg: Well, look, when I stepped into the role, you know, it was clear that COVID was on the horizon, but we had no idea what kind of, you know, a horrible challenge it was going to be for New York and particularly for New York City Transit and for MTA. I really believe in public service. I believe if you're, if you're asked to serve, and you have the capability to do it, you should do it. And so I feel like it's an obligation, a moral obligation to serve. What I didn't expect with that was that it would be a 24/7 job for 18 months, and I have a three-year-old, and I miss her. I can't talk about it too much, or I’ll cry.
Scotto: Oh, I know. What plans do you have for you and your daughter?
Feinberg: Playgrounds and…Coney Island.
Scotto: Oh, that's fantastic. That's okay, you can cry. This is like the plight of all working mothers.
Feinberg: It is. It really is. And so many women over the last couple days have said thank you so much for talking about this.
Scotto: Yeah. Yeah, it's hard reality. Here, I didn’t even touch it, have some water. Hold on, we come prepared… (hands her tissues) I cry all the time.
Feinberg: Well, I’m a crier. I just try not to do it on television, but here we are. Okay. Let's move on.
Scotto: Today’s an emotional day.
Feinberg: Of course.
Peters: I want to talk about also, you know, leaving at this time where we talked about the pandemic and what a marvelous job that you did this past year serving the city, serving the people that ride and take transit. But, you know, there are still some gaps to be filled. I mean talking about some of the ridership that's still down. And we talked about some of these numbers. Subway down still 54%, Metro-North down 60%, LIRR down 56%, and even buses, the ridership down there as well. So, when you leave during something like this, you know, what are we looking at, what are we looking to face in the next couple of months, next year?
Feinberg: You're exactly right. The most important thing is for ridership to come back. And look, I think that it will we're in, we're in a slow period right now anyway, right? We're headed into August. But, you know, I think in September schools will be reopening, offices reopening, people coming back. You know, the city has very much reopened bars, restaurants, you know, we had this concert coming up, all of that stuff. So I think people are going to be coming back. Is it, are we going to be back where we were pre pandemic? Absolutely not. And we've got a long way to go. Particularly, you know, we, we're seeing a resurgence right now already with COVID. We know masks work, we know vaccines work. And so we've got to keep reminding people to come back to the system. It's safe, that you got to be vigilant about your mask, and you should get vaccinated. But look, it's going to be a long slog to get ridership back to what it was. That’s what we’re focused on now.
Scotto: Let's talk a little bit about crime because you've been on our show, and you've been begging for more police officers in the system and you finally got it.
Scotto: Crime numbers are going down.
Feinberg: They went right down. Yeah, that's right.
Scotto: Are you concerned now that you are stepping away, that things could slip?
Feinberg: You know, I'm not. So first of all, again, strong leadership at New York City Transit and Janno Lieber who stepped in as CEO and Chair is a very strong leader at MTA as well. Look, we had this all of the above approach to safety and security in the system to fighting crime in the system. Yes, it was more police officers and when the city started cooperating with us and listening, we went from historically really low policing numbers. 1400 NYPD officers in the system. They injected 1100 officers into the system, and crime dropped like a brick right, so that was very helpful. But we've also installed tons of cameras. We've hired security contractors. We got the city to upgrade the 311 system, so that it now works for those who are in the system. So, all of that is really good news and huge steps forward from where we were just like six months ago. By the end of the summer, we're going to have cameras in every single station.
Peters: Yes, I know you mentioned that a couple weeks ago when you were on the show here with us. Just you know female to female, many probably feel the same sentiments. So many women that are watching, so proud of the job that you've done. Especially representing in the role that you have been. Talk to us about maybe the possibility of staying on if certain things fall into place. Is that something that you're still considering?
Feinberg: Look the, the shared position I think makes a lot of sense because you can have a significant impact, you can help steer the agency. We have a big dynamic, strong board at the MTA, and we, I know that we can, you know, work closely with the board to steer the agency in the right direction. We have a huge capital program and congestion pricing and all this stuff on the horizon. The New York City Transit job is 24/7. It's every rush hour. It's every single delay. You know, before I got here this morning, I'm trying to figure out why there are big headways on the right. So, it is 24/7. The MTA Chair position is, is a big job, and you can have a big impact, but it's less, you know 24/7. It gives me the ability to be the kind of mom I want to be.
Scotto: So, let me ask you something. Would you come back, say, if the Senate comes back and votes you in in a month?
Feinberg: Absolutely, absolutely. I've told them.
Scotto: Next week, even though we're going to go to Coney Island? Are we okay with that?
Feinberg: We will go after Coney Island. Maybe give me a couple weeks to do the playgrounds in Coney Island and then, you know, then we'll go. But no, absolutely. Look, I think it's important for the Senate to act. I hope they'll come back. We've said you want to have a public hearing, we're here for it. Confirmation hearing, I'm in. You want to get briefed, you want to hear my thoughts on why we split the position. I'm here to talk, so call me.
Scotto: Call her, please. On one last thing, your thoughts on congestion pricing.
Feinberg: We're getting there. You know, look this, the environmental approval process is a bear, and I used to work in the federal government, I can tell you that, you know, for those who are in the middle of the process, they sort of understand all of the details. If you're on the outside, you're like what is taking so long, why can't we just get this done? It typically takes 18 to 24 months to get these, to get these processes approved. I think will be a lot faster than that. But it, but it's significant. You got to go to the federal government, you got to get approval for your plan on how you're going to talk to people about it and get public input. So it's a bear, but we're going to get there first in the nation. It's first time we've been able to do this in New York. You know a lot of credit to the Governor for getting it done. We'll get there, and I think it'll make a big difference.
Peters: I hope he's watching. Yeah, call her. Let's get it. Let's get her back from recess.
Scotto: Get her digits right now. And by the way, when you go to Coney Island, make sure you have the fries at Nathan's. I mean, we want the hotdogs, with the fries, they’re so delicious.
Feinberg: Oh my god, my daughter loves a hotdog.
Peters: We hope that you enjoy this time with your daughter. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done, and we hope to see you back here real soon.
Feinberg: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Scotto: Thank you.