Phil Eng to resign as head of LIRR, Catherine Rinaldi appointed interim president

Phil Eng to resign as head of LIRR, Catherine Rinaldi appointed interim president
LIRR President Phillip Eng greeting commuters at the Mineola train station. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng is resigning at the end of the month from the post he has held since April 2018, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said Thursday.

Replacing Eng for the time being as interim president will be Catherine Rinaldi, who will concurrently serve as president of the Metro-North Railroad, a role she has held since 2018. 

Rinaldi’s first day in the position will be Feb. 26. 

Eng joined the MTA in 2017 from the New York State Department of Transportation, where he was executive deputy commissioner. The 60-year-old began working at the DOT in 1983. 

Since taking control of the LIRR, the largest commuter railroad in the nation with over 89 million rides a year, Eng oversaw a $6 billion capital program to modernize and expand the railroad’s infrastructure. 

Lieber said in 2021 Eng guided the railroad to the best on-time performance in its history.

“Phil has been a really strong leader at the Long Island Rail Road,” Lieber said Thursday.

Eng said he will remain in an advisory role to ensure a smooth transition until March 11. 

“I can retire knowing that I leave the LIRR well positioned for continued success with a dedicated management team and a tenacious workforce who are delivering the best train performance in LIRR history while fulfilling our commitments on a historic capital program,” Eng said in his resignation letter. “I will always fondly look back on my time working with the MTA family as one of the highlights of my career. The MTA is the backbone of New York – and I will always cherish the opportunity I had working alongside our hardworking, dedicated workforce.” 

In 2021, MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye, a Sands Point resident, resigned. Following his resignation, he initially was appointed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be interim president and CEO of Empire State Development, but declined in order for Gov. Kathy Hochul to fill out her own team. 

In 2019, Eng and Foye were in their roles when the MTA board approved a five-year plan with an “unprecedented” $5.7 billion for the LIRR.

Rinaldi, 58, a Huntington native, served as vice president and general counsel at the Long Island Rail Road from 2008 to 2011. Additionally, she has served as MTA deputy executive director and general counsel, chief of staff and counsel at MTA headquarters.

“Cathy Rinaldi is a proven leader with nearly twenty years of experience at the MTA, having served in leadership positions at headquarters and both commuter railroads,” Lieber said in a statement. “At Metro-North, she has led efforts to improve system reliability, achieve excellent customer service, and continue the intensive infrastructure work essential to maintaining system safety. She has great relations with labor, has the respect of her staff and puts the customer first.

“Phil has done an incredible job as President of the LIRR, strengthening operations through the LIRR Forward Plan and overseeing historic infrastructure investments like East Side Access and Third Track – all the while navigating a once-in-a-century crisis with COVID.”

Rinaldi will step into the LIRR as it is slated to finish the third track project, which is adding a track from Floral Park to Hicksville,  by the end of this year along with the end of the East Side Access project, which is connecting the railroad to Grand Central Terminal this year. 

Gerard Bringmann, MTA board member and chair of the LIRR Commuter Council, said Rinaldi knows the issues Long Islanders are facing.

She knows the LIRR because she worked there, and she knows the key issues facing commuters and railroads as we emerge from the COVID crisis,” Bringmann said in a statement. “She is no stranger to major projects, as Metro-North is undertaking significant capital work, and with East Side Access coming into Grand Central, the marriage of these two roles at this time makes sense. We look forward to working with her in her new role on behalf of riders from Wassaic to Montauk.”

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