Two men, one a practiced French stuntman known for climbing tall buildings, the other a New Yorker who said he wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of malaria, scaled the 52-story New York Times Building in Times Square on Thursday just hours apart. Each was arrested when he stepped safely onto the roof.
Later in the day, a man identified by the police as Renaldo Clarke scaled the tower’s western side, where people on the 50th floor watched his ascent. More Photos »
The first, Alain Robert, the Frenchman, went up the north face of the year-old skyscraper in the morning, unfurling a bright green banner near the top. The words on the banner were illegible from the sidewalk, but from office windows inside the tower the message could be clearly read: “Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week.”
The other, identified by the police as Renaldo Clarke, 32, of Brooklyn, climbed the Eighth Avenue side starting about 6 p.m.
A spokeswoman for The Times, Catherine J. Mathis, said that after the first climber was arrested, two additional building security guards were assigned to patrol the area outside, on 40th and 41st Streets.
Both climbers grabbed onto one of the building’s most distinctive features, the ladderlike horizontal rods that form an exterior curtain surrounding the floor-to-ceiling windows. And then, in turn, they were off on a hand-over-hand trip up the face of a New York skyscraper, with no ropes or harnesses, a trip that left the cellphone-camera-snapping crowds that swirled below thinking of Spider-Man, or maybe King Kong.
“He was staring at me on the fourth floor,” said Kim Severson, a reporter for The Times’s Dining section, who saw Mr. Clarke pass by. “At first, I thought, ‘Is he a window washer?’ But he had no equipment. He turned and climbed up at a very rapid pace. He looked very focused. He looked very solemn and determined.”
Both times, the police and Times security officials cordoned off the sidewalk below as crowds gathered. Both times, television news helicopters circled, zooming in as each climber grabbed onto ever-higher rungs.
“It’s very scary,” said Dan Sella, an associate at the law firm of Covington & Burling L.L.P., who watched Mr. Clarke go by on the 41st floor.
But witnesses said there appeared to be differences between the climbs. Mr. Robert seemed better prepared, with a fanny pack that contained chalk to help his grip and liquid to drink.
“When Alain came up this side, it was a cakewalk for him,” said Nick Mudge, 24, a chef at Covington & Burling.
Mr. Clarke — his hands blackened by dirt from the ceramic rods — looked “fatigued” as he passed the 43rd floor, Mr. Mudge said. “He stopped and hung by his arms. His feet were just swinging back and forth.”
Mr. Clarke took to stopping at floors where there were breaks in the bars, and looking inside, where small crowds stared back.
“He mouthed to me, ‘What floor am I on?’ ” said Andrew M. Bratt, an associate at Covington & Burling. “I hand-signaled that he was on 41. He nodded and looked down and moved on. He was smiling.”
Mr. Clarke smiled even when one of the ceramic rods cracked underfoot as he made his way from the 47th floor to the 48th, another witness said.
The crowd in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, across Eighth Avenue, let out a cheer in exuberant relief when Mr. Clarke made it safely to the top. But some spectators criticized the stunt.
“He’s disrupting the city,” said Zee Mosher, 33, a graphic designer with a portrait of Buckminster Fuller tattooed on his neck. “He’s endangering his own life and the lives of other people.”
The chief spokesman for the police, Paul J. Browne, said that Mr. Clarke, of Brooklyn, was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation after his arrest.
Shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, the police said, Mr. Clarke was moved from Bellevue to the Midtown South Precinct station house. He emerged from Midtown South about a half-hour later. He paused for a moment at the top of the steps as reporters shouted questions.
When asked if he was a copycat climber, he said, flatly, “No.”
Officers then loaded him into an unmarked car and took him to Central Booking to be arraigned. Mr. Clarke was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
Mr. Robert, 45, who was released on bail early Friday, was facing the same charges as well as a charge of making graffiti, in reference to the banner he unfurled after his climb.
After being freed, Mr. Robert would only say that he was “very happy to be released.” He was overheard telling friends in French that he was tired.
FINALLY, SOMEBODY HAS THE BALLS TO DO SOMETHING INTERESTING IN THIS CITY !!! IT'S BEEN LIKE A MORGUE SINCE THE 2004 REPUBLICAN CONVENTION(I USED MORGUE BECAUSE ITS A FRENCH WORD)