These New Yorkers were on the anti-Cuomo train early!
Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a torrent of hate mail from New Yorkers in the days after his hand-picked subway boss Andy Byford quit the MTA – with many of the missives blaming the governor’s notoriously ego-driven leadership for the popular Brit’s exit, the Post has learned.
The governor received around 225 angry emails and letters in the eight days after Byford’s Jan. 23, 2020 resignation, which the transit chief blamed on Cuomo becoming “intolerable,” according to correspondence obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
“I blame his leaving on your shortsightedness, your ego, your need to control and take credit for the progress made with our subway system,” Philipos Wander emailed Cuomo the day after Byford quit.
Under Byford’s leadership, the subways hit their highest on-time performance in six years. He also set in motion the MTA modernization plan currently being pursued by his successors.
Neither accomplishment was lost on New Yorkers.
“The man has accomplished a lot in his relatively short tenure with the NYC subway. Shame on you for interfering!” Mary Jane Wilkie told the governor in letter dated the day after Byford’s shock resignation last year.
“It appears that the political environment has become nothing more than a bunch of guys trotting around unable to control their testosterone.”
“It’s a shame you cannot share the spotlight,” wrote Malvina Nathanson. “You owe us all an apology.”
Cuomo made the job “intolerable,” Byford said in an interview with WCBS-TV shortly before returning to the United Kingdom last March.
He accused the governor’s team of going behind his back and reducing his role after Byford called for an “independent review” of Cuomo’s plan to avert the L train shutdown.
“I found myself excluded from meetings that were absolutely about the day-to-day running of New York City Transit,” Byford said at the time. “The governor is the boss, the governor runs the MTA. But at the end of the day, I needed to be left to run the system.”
Letters sent to the governor alternatively castigated the third-term Democrat for letting his talented transit chief leave, begged him to get Byford to stay — or both.
“You are flailing as the bully in the MTA. You shoved out Byeford [sic] who is ideal for the job and has the workforce that can do it behind him… He who hires talent gets to shine with them. Undo that. Grovel [if] necessary,” wrote Barbara Charton.
“I am a Democratic always-voter, but I will always be against you in any future elected position you try for unless you meet with Byford and convince him to remain with the MTA,” emailed Joyce Stickney.
“As in the NY tradition of people like Trump and Giuliani, you are letting your obsession with getting credit and showing that ‘you’re in charge’ endanger the successes brought about by your appointee,” warned Rick O’Connell.
Cuomo’s leadership style has come under the spotlight again in recent weeks, after he was accused of threatening to “destroy” a state assemblyman for speaking out over the state’s decision to withhold data on thousands of nursing home deaths amid the pandemic.
Transit observers said that style was on full display with his treatment of Byford.
“Gov. Cuomo is incapable of recognizing the concept of reflected credit,” said David Bragdon of the Manhattan-based think tank TransitCenter. “If Andy C. had let Andy B. run the NYCT, Andy C. would have gotten far more credit than he gets for pretending to run it himself.”
“Andy inspired an unparalleled level of trust among riders and workers and New Yorkers, and that was by dint of his independent professionalism, expertise and commitment, and it’s not easily replaced, frankly,” said Riders Alliance rep Danny Pearlstein.
“Because of his clashes with the governor, he was essentially demoted to running trains and buses daily, but not modernizing the subway as he had proposed.”
Speaking to WCBS-TV last March, Byford suggested that Cuomo, reputed for wanting to be the hero in every situation, may have been jealous.
“I didn’t seek the moniker ‘Train Daddy,’ I didn’t seek the publicity. But the fact is a good transit professional gets out and about,” he said. “We did over 100 public events. That garnered a certain amount of publicity. If others didn’t like that, well, that wasn’t my intention.”
Cuomo, for his part, claimed to have never told Byford what to do. When asked if Byford was “undermined,” the governor said: “If anything, he was over-mined because I dealt with his bosses.”
“I didn’t work with Andy Byford. I worked with [MTA boss] Pat Foye … I worked with his higher-ups,” the governor told reporters last March.
Neither the governor’s office nor Byford responded to requests for comment from The Post.