Helena Williams, president of the Long Island Rail Road, was fired from her position on Wednesday, in the midst of bitter contract negotiations with LIRR union workers.
Williams, who has served as LIRR president for nearly seven years, received the news Wednesday from her boss, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Thomas F. Prendergast, who informed her about her successor. She will be replaced by Patrick Nowakowski, a railroad executive who helped to launch the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which involves the construction of a 23-mile rail line to connect with the Washington, D.C., Metro system.
“It’s been a privilege to have served as LIRR president,” Williams said in a statement released Wednesday. “I am deeply grateful to the men and women of the LIRR and to my leadership team who have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our customers and help modernize the LIRR’s operations.”
Starting as a lawyer with deep experience in government and transportation, Williams had previously served 13 years with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority before becoming LIRR president, including five years as president of MTA Long Island Bus.
In a news release announcing both Williams' departure and Nowakowski's appointment, Prendergast mentioned no specific reason or incident that prompted this change in leadership, later stating that it was not a reflection of Williams' performance during her tenure.
“I want to thank Helena for her long and successful service to the MTA, to Long Island and to everyone in the New York metropolitan region,” he said. “Helena’s tireless work to improve the LIRR’s operations, communications and community relations has not just made the railroad better for LIRR customers, but has improved the economy and the quality of life for everyone on Long Island.”
Nowakowski, a career railroad professional with broad experience in operations, engineering, infrastructure and planning, previously served more than 27 years with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, including seven years as Assistant General Manager of Operations.