Judge OKs Yankee Stadium Vote

The fate of Yankee Stadium now goes to the voters.

A Bronx judge ruled Wednesday the city can hold a referendum in November on whether taxpayers want a new billion-dollar stadium on Manhattan's West Side.

The decision by state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon is a victory for City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who has bitterly disputed the issue with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

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  • Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has said Vallone's actions could prompt him to move the team from New York. The lease on the famed 75-year-old ballpark expires in 2002.

    Steinbrenner, who also has made overtures about a move to New Jersey, has said he will disclose his plans after the season. He wouldn't comment on the judge's decision.

    "We're in the midst of a postseason, trying to bring a World Series to the city and we will not get involved in politics. Our only focus is on bringing a championship to New York," he said Wednesday before the Yankees played the Indians in the second game of the AL championship series.

    Giuliani has said the city shouldn't limit options for the Yankees, whether in the Bronx or Manhattan. The mayor did not immediately comment, but his press secretary, Colleen Roche, said the city will appeal.

    McKeon's 15-page ruling said, "When the expenditure of public funds approaching $1 billion is estimated to build a new stadium ... does it offend the spirit of the (city) Charter to permit the public to prticipate in that decision?" He decided it did not.

    Questions over the stadium's future have been heightened since the collapse of a 500-pound steel beam this year, which forced the stadium to shut temporarily.

    Vallone supports keeping the team in the Bronx, a position with overwhelming public support. Vallone, a Democrat seeking to oust Republican Gov. George Pataki, contends the public has a right to be heard on a project that could involve hundreds of millions of government dollars.

    But Giuliani called the referendum a political gimmick intended to boost the vote for Vallone in the heavily Democratic city. He established a charter commission to keep the referendum off the Nov. 3 ballot.

    Vallone labeled the commission a "sham" that "effectively curtails and encroaches on the power of the Council."

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