The city cannot go forward with a new policy requiring single people to prove they have no other options before they enter homeless shelters, a court ruled Tuesday.

The decision in Manhattan state Supreme Court was in response to how the city introduced the proposal, which would have required people to show they're truly homeless, with documents if possible.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who opposed the policy, hailed the ruling as "a tremendous victory" and commended the court for its action.

The city plans to appeal.

The council voted in December to sue Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration over how the policy was communicated to lawmakers and the public. The city delayed enacting it pending the court review.

The mayor's administration made the policy change in November, with only a week's notice before the council held a hearing lasting several hours. Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond participated.

Quinn said neither the council nor the public was adequately consulted about a move she called "cruel and punitive." The policy would put thousands more people on the street because it required "people who could least shoulder it" to provide proof they have nowhere else to stay, Quinn said.

Bloomberg, an independent, responded Tuesday that the same standards should apply to everyone seeking shelter.

Otherwise, the mayor said, judges should explain to city residents "why they think that you should just have a right to walk in and say, `Whether or not I need services, give it to me.'"

Diamond said in a statement that the ruling by Judge Judith Gische pertains only to procedure, not to the legality of the policy.

The judge's ruling "focused only on the administrative process used to communicate the eligibility procedure for single adults entering the city's shelter system," Diamond said. The decision does not "make any determinations about its legality other than ruling on the method used to issue it."