New York Gov. David Paterson yesterday appointed a former Metropolitan Transportation Authority official to be chairman and chief executive officer of the agency.

The appointment of Jay Walder, which requires Senate confirmation, would make Walder the first person to hold the newly combined position, which was created as part of a bailout package that state lawmakers passed in May.

Paterson praised Walder's previous work at the MTA, crediting him for his part in rebuilding the subway system in the 1980s, transforming "what was the symbol of urban decay into a beacon of urban renewal." Walder worked on the agency's first capital program, which was initiated by then-MTA chairman and current Lieut. Gov. Richard Ravitch.

The Senate majority Democrats said they would hold hearings to confirm Walder but did not give a date, making it unlikely that he would be confirmed at a special session to be held today. Confirmation could come at a special session called by the Senate or the governor in the future.

Walder said that creating "a well-structured, secure, long-term capital program" was "at the top of the list when it comes to the challenges that are in front of us."

While the MTA bailout package provided revenue streams that are expected to generate some $1.8 billion annually to provide additional operating funds and debt service on $6.8 billion of bonds, Walder said it only gave "short-term comfort to the MTA's capital program."

"It's clear that we need a longer-term solution," he said. "One that we arrive at together with the governor, the legislative leaders, the region's leaders, our union partners, and community advocates."

Walder first joined the MTA in 1983 after earning a master's in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. By 1993 he had become the authority's executive director and chief financial officer.

He left the MTA in 1995 to teach public policy, including infrastructure finance. In 2000 he was tapped by Transport for London, an agency that had just been created to oversee and manage transportation services in London, to be its managing director of finance and planning. In 2006, he joined McKinsey & Co. as a partner specializing in large-scale capital investments and public-private partnerships.

MTA board member Doreen Frasca said the appointment was an "inspired choice."

"The governor, in choosing Jay, who has a financial background, understands that finance is a very critical part of the issues this agency has to tackle in the future," she said.

Pending Senate confirmation, Walder would replace former chairman Dale Hemmerdinger and former president and CEO Elliot Sander, whose separate jobs were eliminated in the restructuring of the agency.

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