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2 daredevils scale 52-story N.Y. Times building

June 06, 2008|Matthew Sweeney and Marlene Naanes | amNewYork

NEW YORK — In two separate stunts that had the addictive hallmarks of a viral video -- except that they were live in Manhattan -- two men turned the New York Times building into a daredevils' jungle gym Thursday, raising questions about security at the site.

Rey Clarke, 32, had been planning to climb the building for two years, according to friends who watched him and took photos. Clarke left his job at 5:30 p.m., angered at the news that a French stuntman known as "Spiderman" had scaled his way barehanded up the 52-story building.

By 5:45 p.m., Clarke had hugged friends goodbye and begun the ascent of the ladder-like facade of ceramic bars.

"I know him well, and I think it's crazy," Nick Ruzhnikov said. "But I love him. I gave him a hug and wished him luck."

The climbers each reached the roof with a message.

Alain Robert, 45, scaled the building in the morning to mark World Environment Day at the United Nations, telling police that he picked the building because the Renzo Piano-designed edifice was green. He unfurled a banner saying, "Global warming kills more people than a 9/11 every week."

Clarke wore a T-shirt reading, "Malaria No More."

"Two climbers used our headquarters building to make personal statements," said Catherine Mathis, the Times' spokeswoman. "Their illegal and ill-considered actions jeopardized their safety and the safety of others. We are taking steps to prevent future occurrences."

As Clarke made his ascent, hundreds of passersby stopped to watch from the streets below. They gaped upward, half-fascinated, half-horrified.

Unlike Robert, who had climbed the Eiffel Tower and other high-rises, Clarke had merely scaled the likes of construction sites, said a friend, Monica Escobar.

Robert's website says he has climbed more than 70 skyscrapers. He was arrested in February after scaling a 42-floor building in Brazil.

Both men were arrested when they reached the roof.

Robert was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespass. Charges against Clarke were pending the outcome of a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

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