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Pataki Supports DiMaggio Tribute

March 17, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Gov. George Pataki supports the renaming of the West Side Highway in tribute to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

The announcement Tuesday came a day after the New York ballplayer’s longtime attorney criticized the governor for a messy political dispute over the honor.

This morning, the state Assembly and Senate both endorsed a resolution renaming a portion of the highway running from Battery Place to West 72nd Street along Manhattan’s West Side in DiMaggio’s honor.

In a scathing letter on Monday, DiMaggio lawyer Morris Engelberg said neither he nor DiMaggio’s grandchildren would ``sanction Governor Pataki’s ... use of Mr. DiMaggio’s name to be used in a political battle″ over the highway tribute to the ballplayer, who died March 8.

``It was Mr. DiMaggio who said `yes’ to the renaming of the West Side Highway, and that is all that counts,″ Engelberg wrote in the letter to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

DiMaggio’s ``grandchildren and I are deeply concerned by Governor Pataki’s action,″ Engelberg said. ``To use Joe DiMaggio’s name to further any political objective is inappropriate, and to attempt to do so at this time _ so soon after his death _ is, in our opinion, in extremely poor taste.″

The letter, made public Tuesday, represented a stinging reprimand for Pataki, whose administration had suggested the idea of renaming the Major Deegan Expressway, which runs near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, for DiMaggio.

Giuliani had been campaigning since January to have the West Side Highway renamed for the legendary ballplayer, and he went so far as to have a highway sign bearing DiMaggio’s name shipped to him in his final days in Florida.

The competing proposals created a rift between City Hall and Albany on the day DiMaggio died. It was the latest disagreement in the long-running flinty relations between the mayor and the governor.

Giuliani and Pataki discussed the letter privately Monday and agreed to follow the family’s wishes.

Aides to the governor said they were stunned when Engelberg’s letter became public, and they accused the mayor’s office of having a hand in leaking it to the media. They emphasized that Pataki had never expressed a preference for either highway.

City Hall and Albany have had other disagreements over the Yankees.

Last year, Pataki disclosed he favored keeping the Yankees in the Bronx at a time when the mayor was touting a West Side railyard in Manhattan as a potential home for a new Yankee Stadium. The West Side Highway runs near the railyard.

No decision has been made on a new home for the Yankees, whose lease at Yankee Stadium expires in 2002.

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