New York Senate confirms Lieber as MTA chairman, Velez as board member

Jan. 20, 2022
Both were nominated by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this month and participated in a three-committee call the day before the confirmation vote.

Updated Jan. 20, 2022; 8:35 pm

The New York Senate voted to confirm Janno Lieber as chair and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Elizabeth Velez to serve on the MTA Board of Directors.

Both were nominated by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this month.

New York State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-28) said on the floor ahead of the confirmation vote, “I find that both of these individuals are extraordinarily impressive, extraordinarily right for the jobs they are being asked to do.”

Velez, president of the Velez Organization, a second-generation construction firm, was confirmed in a 60 – 3 vote and Lieber in a 56 – 7 vote.

New York State Sen. Timothy Kennedy called Lieber, who has been serving as acting chair and CEO of the MTA since July 2021, an exceptional candidate.

“Over the course of the last five years, the vision of the reconstruction of the MTA has taken root and so have major projects he has overseen…It’s essential that we have a system that works for the riders. The riders need to know that the individual at the helm has their best interests in mind. Mr. Lieber has proven that.”

Sen. Krueger noted MTA is an agency “under enormous stress and strain, structurally and financially,” adding it was the responsibility of the legislative body to “help it get past all of this for all our constituents’ sake.”

Sen. Kennedy added he believed Lieber was the person to help the MTA “do better.”

“I’d like to thank Gov. Hochul and the senate for their confidence,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “Bringing back customers is our single highest priority and that means providing the safest, most reliable and most affordable service we can.”

MTA executive appointments

On the same day of his confirmation, Lieber named five executive appointments that will help lead MTA’s financial, accessibility, legal and administrative efforts.

Quemuel Arroyo, currently MTA chief accessibility officer, adds duties as special advisor to MTA chair and CEO Lieber. Arroyo will advise on New York City-related transportation issues and policy, while continuing to lead the implementation of policies, initiatives and programs that advance accessibility.

Kevin Willens will become MTA chief financial officer, responsible for managing the MTA’s budget and finances and accountable for developing the agency’s annual budget and four-year financial plan. In this role, he will oversee the departments of the Comptroller, Finance, Management and Budget and Treasury.

Paige Graves will serve as MTA general counsel. Graves previously served as general counsel in the NYC Transit Law Department, at the Long Island Rail Road and MTA Bus Company. Recently, as acting general counsel, she’s been responsible for developing high-level legal and policy strategies for key MTA initiatives.

Chris Pangilinan will serve as vice president for paratransit. Pangilinan has dedicated a 15-year career in public transportation to enable people, especially those with disabilities, to live their fullest lives. In his previous role, Pangilinan was the head of global policy for public transportation and accessibility at Uber, working to bring the benefits of on-demand transportation to people with disabilities.

Mersida Ibric will serve as deputy chief administrative officer. Ibric joins the MTA with more than 14 years of experience in the public sector, most recently at the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) as deputy commissioner and chief diversity officer.

“These leaders have the experience, talent and enthusiasm to further the MTA’s aggressive agenda,” Chair and CEO Lieber said, “as the authority increases ridership, strengthening the agency’s financial position and driving recovery of the region’s economy.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.