Former MTA Head of Development Michael Horodniceanu Dies at 78

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Michael Horodniceanu — who acted as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s president of capital construction from 2008 to 2017 and helped steer the Second Avenue subway, the 7 train expansion to Hudson Yards and the Fulton Transit Center — died June 22 at the age of 78 of pancreatic cancer, according to his family.

Horodniceanu was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1944 before moving to the United States and settling in Forest Hills, Queens, in 1970. He studied civil engineering at the Israel Institute of Technology, got his master’s degree in engineering management from Columbia University and later finished his doctorate in transportation planning and engineering from New York University Tandon School of Engineering.

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In 1973, he went to work with engineering firm Urbitran, where he served as chairman and CEO, and then was New York City’s traffic commissioner from 1986 to 1990 under Mayor Ed Koch.

Horodniceanu joined the MTA in 2008 and was present for the boring of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side all the way to East 96th Street, He also was one of the many who guided East Side Access along its twisted road to completion.

“The projects that I’m doing today are projects that are changing the way New York is going to be for the next generation,” Horodniceanu told Commercial Observer in 2015 about his work at the MTA. “These are things you do not get to do normally. You have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for someone to offer you a job like this. Because I did not apply for the job I have today.”

He was succeeded in his role at the MTA by Janno Lieber, who currently serves as chairman of the state agency. Lieber told Crain’s New York Business that he and other MTA officials attended the funeral.

Aside from his city government work, Horodniceanu also taught at Polytechnic University, Manhattan College and at NYU, where he was the founding chair of its Institute of Design and Construction Innovation Hub.

He is survived by his wife Bat-Sheva and two sons, Oded and Eran.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.