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Full-year's salary for retired MTA executive


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Full-year's salary for retired MTA executive


Tuesday, May 20th 2008, 4:00 AM


The cash-strapped MTA will pay a former top-level executive $200,000 to do nothing.


Metropolitan Transportation Authority veteran Thomas Savage will receive a full year's salary as if he was still reporting to work as president of the MTA Bus Co. - even though he stepped down from the executive post last month, the authority said.


Spokesman Jeremy Soffin described the $200,000 as a necessary cost of a larger initiative to consolidate management positions, which the authority expects to lead to financial savings down the road.


Savage retired despite having one year left on his multiyear contract, Soffin said.


Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign had kind words for Savage and the MTA's efforts to streamline operations - but said he believed the MTA is "too generous" when crafting packages for executives.


Savage, 59, declined to comment on the specifics of his economic agreement with the MTA but said it wasn't a "buyout." He simply decided to retire after 37 years in various roles with the authority, he said.


The MTA created the MTA Bus Co. division in 2004 to take over express and local routes run by seven private bus companies, including dozens of express routes between Manhattan and the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.


The prior administration named Savage a division president. Before that, he was the MTA's chief operating officer.


With new buses, schedule changes and other upgrades, ridership on the routes boomed under Savage.


The MTA said it is merging three posts into one. Joseph Smith, NYC Transit's senior vice president of buses, will continue that role but also be president of both MTA Bus Co. and the Long Island Bus division, Soffin said.


Neil Yellin, who earned $163,000 a year, has been promoted from Long Island Bus president to a job at the Long Island Rail Road, Soffin said.


Smith is getting a raise to $235,000 a year from $199,000.


"There's been a big turnaround in the formerly private bus lines under Savage," Russianoff said. "And the MTA's move to consolidate three bus entities under Joe Smith makes sense.


"Do I think the MTA negotiates too generous contracts? Yes," Russianoff said.


Savage's departure means a near-total changing of the guard at the authority since CEO Elliot Sander became the top administrator in January 2007.


Other top staffers who have left include the presidents of the MTA Capital Construction Co. and NYC Transit. Metro-North President Peter Cannito has announced his retirement.

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A contract is a contract, so he's entitled to the money by law. There is no cash shortage. MTA has all the money they need, they just don't have the money they want to complete all these grand projects they are working on.

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The thing you have to remember about the MTA is that they are very generous with money. They have no problem shelling out the big bucks for parts and paper for memos and big buyouts. The real hard part is to get them to decide that you are the one who deserves the cash. Once they think you are deserving, the money train pulls up to your house.

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