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AGENCY BACKS PLAN FOR NEW JETS STADIUM

The New York Jets' plan for a $1.9 billion Manhattan stadium that could also serve as the centerpiece of the 2012 Olympics cleared a major hurdle Thursday when its bid was approved by the state agency that owns the proposed site.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted unanimously in favor of the football team's $720 million offer for rights to develop the site over a remote railyard adjoining the Hudson River. The board rejected two competing proposals.

"This is a tremendous project with tremendous jobs, and I can go home at night and sleep soundly knowing I am pushing this forward," said James Simpson, chairman of the MTA's real estate committee.

The Jets' proposal for the 75,000-seat stadium is backed by the city and state and is crucial to New York's attempt to host the 2012 Olympics.

But it has also attracted bitter opposition from some residents and is expected to be a factor in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's bid for re-election this fall.

Before the vote was taken, City Council speaker Gifford Miller, a Democratic mayoral hopeful, warned that the fight would continue.

"Why are you doing this?" Miller asked the panel as the audience inside MTA headquarters cheered and booed. "This is not over. This is a terrible mistake."

The Jets currently play home games at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The team hopes to play at the new facility starting in 2009.

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