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Security Tightens At Times Building After Two Daredevil Climbs

June 06, 2008

Security has tightened at Midtown's New York Times building after two activists were arrested for climbing up the 800-foot-tall exterior yesterday.

Thursday afternoon, Alain Robert, 45, a French professional climber, ascended the north side of the 52-floor building before being arrested shortly before 12:30 p.m. He was charged with counts of reckless endangerment, making graffiti, criminal tresspassing and disorderly conduct.

Robert had no equipment, and only carried with him a green banner that he hung on the side of the building, which reportedly said "Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week."

Then, hours later, Reynaldo Clarke, 32, of Sunset Park, Brooklyn also began to ascend the Times building without climbing equipment. This second climber seemed to have a harder time making the climb, stopped at various, but reached the summit of the building at 6:37 p.m. He then collapsed into the arms of policemen, who immediately apprehended him as crowds cheered him on below.

Sources told NY1 that Clarke had made similar climbs before and wore a shirt with a slogan about malaria awareness. Clarke got the idea by seeing Robert on television.

Clarke was taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. He was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Both men used the building's distinctive exterior, which is covered with a sturdy ceramic grill, as an 800-foot-tall ladder. The horizontal rods outside the building are meant to reduce the need for air conditioning.

Robert previously climbed other famous structures like the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. He wanted his climb to bring attention to World Environmental Day, which was observed Thursday.

During both climbs, onlookers crowded Eighth Avenue and blocked traffic to observe the climbers.

"We were yelling, trying to talk to him," said a man who operated a crane across the street during Robert's climb. "He didn't say nothing back, he just kept on climbing, just us a thumbs-up and kept climbing. He's more crazier than we are -- power to him."

"It was nuts, because it didn't look like he had any equipment on," said another onlooker of Robert's climb.

Democratic Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., who recently proposed legislation that would make it illegal to climb or jump from tall structures, expressed a strong dislike for the publicity stunt.

"Regardless of the cause, in this day and age the police department has more important things to worry about then ridiculous stunts like this that endanger the police and public," said Vallone. "If he wants to climb something, he can climb the walls inside his jail cell at Rikers."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was also unimpressed by the two climbs and noted their high potential for jeopardizing other people's lives.

"And to give these people credit, to make a big deal out of it just makes it worse," said Bloomberg. "So my attitude is, I’m just going to ignore both of them. And let’s get on with doing what’s right."

The Times moved last year into its current residence, located across the street from Port Authority.
 
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