James “Jay” Neider has had one of the most important jobs in Boston since 2019: overseeing major construction on the increasingly rickety MBTA system, from track repair projects to new train cars to expansions of the mass transit network.
But Neider often wasn’t even in the state, let alone at MBTA construction sites over the last two years, people briefed on his situation said. He spent significant time in Hawaii. And the Middle East. And Wisconsin. He owns homes in multiple states, including Arizona and Delaware, but none in Massachusetts, a review of property records showed.
On Friday, Neider was dismissed from his $275,000-a-year job, according to several people briefed on the matter.
An MBTA spokesman confirmed that Neider is no longer with the T, though he declined to say whether Neider was fired. But one of the two people briefed on Neider’s departure said he was dismissed as part of a larger Healey administration plan to shake up the management team it inherited from the Baker administration.
His exit came just days before Governor Maura Healey introduced Phillip Eng, a former president of the Long Island Rail Road, as the T’s new general manager starting next month.
Neider, who payroll records show made more than $300,000 with additional benefits in 2022, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.
“Why don’t you give it a few days?” he told the Globe in a brief call. “I’m still working through some things with my advisers. I’m not able to comment on anything right now.”
Neider had a reputation for not working closely with workers in T operations and construction, often creating friction within the agency, those people told the Globe. And he made no secret that he wasn’t working in Massachusetts. During at least one Zoom call, golfers could be seen playing in the background, as Neider sat on the veranda of his Delaware home.
However, Neider was not fired for working remotely, one of the people briefed on his departure said. Neider actually had a hybrid work arrangement that permitted some remote work.
“You have to give him credit,” said that person briefed on Neider’s termination. He noted that Neider significantly speeded up the pace of capital spending at the T, which had been slow for years. “He did what he was supposed to do, but he ruffled a lot of feathers.”
Asked about concerns over how much time he spent in Massachusetts, Neider said “thank you” and hung up.
Scott Bosworth, undersecretary at the state Department of Transportation, was tapped to succeed him, two sources said. It was unclear whether his appointment is permanent. An MBTA spokesman said the agency would provide an update when “a decision for a new chief of capital programs has been finalized.”
In a statement issued by a spokesman, interim general manager Jeff Gonneville called Neider a “valued member of the MBTA leadership team.”
“Jay came to the T in 2019 bringing with him a wealth of construction engineering expertise and I want to express my thanks to Jay for his work at the Authority,” Gonneville said.
Capital spending at the T jumped to record levels under Neider, surpassing more than $1.9 billion during fiscal year 2021, and more than $1.6 billion in the years before and after. Under the Baker administration, the T emphasized the need to accelerate the pace of maintenance and long-term projects within the aging system.
But a federal probe found that focus also came at the expense of day-to-day operations and safety at an agency that’s navigated several dangerous, sometimes deadly, incidents. A Green Line collision sent dozens of people to the hospital in the summer of 2021. A man was dragged to his death by a Red Line train last April. A desperate Orange Line rider jumped into the Mystic River to escape a smoking train car months later.
Neider came to the T after decades working on major transportation construction projects, including the 11.8-mile Silver Line rail project in Washington, D.C. There, he worked as a deputy project director for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, according to his LinkedIn profile.
As the T’s chief of capital programs, Neider had broad oversight of hundreds of infrastructure projects, including some that have faced serious problems, like the Orange Line shutdown and the purchase of new rail cars.
MBTA policy allows those at the agency to work on a hybrid schedule or to telework, with permission. Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, told the Globe last August that Neider had worked on a hybrid schedule since the start of the COVID-19 health emergency, and had spent some time in the office.
Two people familiar with the situation said that for some period of time, Neider worked from Hawaii, where he was working on his son’s house.
But Neider’s frequent absences made it difficult for him to bond with his MBTA colleagues, one person said, and prevented him from being a regular presence at construction sites, compromising Neider’s ability to serve as chief of capital programs.
Neider’s exit comes less than three months after Steve Poftak stepped down as MBTA general manager, a position he held for four years. Poftak was replaced by Gonneville, who is filling the role until Eng starts on April 10. Gonneville — who has worked at the MBTA for more than two decades, including a stint as its chief operating officer — will be “staying on with the administration,” Healey said this week.
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