It could only happen in New York. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals yesterday arrested a Manhattan man and a self-described "matador" in the promoting of a bullfight to be held Jan. 29 on barges anchored in the Atlantic Ocean several miles off Coney Island.

John Hoffman and his "matador" were arrested while conducting a news conference in front of the Plaza Hotel and charged with violating a New York State agriculture and markets law prohibiting the promotion of fights between animals. The charge can carry a 10-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Under the state law, ASPCA is empowered to make such arrests.

Duncan Wright, New York ASPCA executive director, said tickets had been selling for $25 with promises that the bullfight would feature bulls, matadors and horses imported from Mexico. It had been claimed that drinks and entertainment would be included.

Wright said that two barges tied together would be large enough to accomodate 2,000 spectators and an arena large enough for bullfighting.

Wright said in a telephone interview that ASPCA "undercover agents" had been working on the case for two months.

The matador, identified as Miguel (Mike) Troy, 36, "formerly of the Bronx and now Nogales, Mexico" was dressed in a red and gold-trimmed bull fighting suit and was sitting on a horse with a sign proclaiming: "John Hoffman presents First Bull Fight - U.S.A., east of Ambrose Lights."

The ocean-going barges were to be equipped with hot-air blowers and flood lights.

Wright said that while he had considered the possibility of a fraud, with no intent to actually stage the bull fight, he has witnessed enough cockfights and dog fights in New York to believe that the promised bull fights might actually have taken place. "I am not surprised and shocked by this. We are not going to allow the tormenting of an animal. I think we have nipped something big in the bud."