NEW YORK – A Manhattan skyscraper that is home to the New York Times became the site of twin daredevil stunts Thursday, with two men scaling the 52-story office tower within a matter of hours.
The first man, Alain Robert, unfurled a banner as he climbed that said “Global warming kills more people than a 9/11 every week.” He was arrested when he made it to the top.
Hours later, a second man ascended the building – a stunt that drew the attention of thousands of onlookers, along with TV cameras that captured the drama in real time. Crowds on the street pressed against police barricades to watch, and people clapped and cheered for the climber while snapping pictures on their cell phones.
The man, identified later by police as 32-year-old Renaldo Clarke, of Brooklyn, was also taken into custody as he reached the top.
“Only in New York. This is why I live in New York,” said 29-year-old Emily Perschetz, who watched the second climber for about 20 minutes.
“You’ve got to respect them for trying,” she added.
At moments during his ascent, Clarke appeared to slow and tire, and officers awaiting him shouted encouragements from the rooftop and even dangled a rope, which he did not take, police said.
Officers became concerned that Clarke might be an emotionally disturbed copycat, and he was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, according to police. There was no working phone number listed under Clarke’s name and address.
The facade of the newly constructed building, which the Times moved into only last year, is covered with slats that allowed the men to climb the tower like a ladder.
Robert pumped his fist as he made it to the top, where police took him into custody. The 45-year-old was facing charges of reckless endangerment, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, police said.
Robert’s Web site says he has climbed more than 70 skyscrapers around the world. He was arrested in February after climbing a 42-floor building in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A spokeswoman for the Times, Catherine Mathis, said the newspaper was “taking steps to prevent future occurrences.”
“Their illegal and ill-considered actions jeopardized their safety and the safety of others,” Mathis said in a statement.
She earlier said no one at the newspaper knew of Robert’s plan in advance.
Reacting to the content of Robert’s banner, Mathis noted that the Times itself has “a very green building.”
“We wanted to minimize our environmental footprint,” she said, adding that the ceramic slats save energy by reducing the amount of heat and light entering the building.