- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - 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 pressed against police barricades to watch the climb, and people clapped and cheered for him while snapping pictures on their cell phone.

He, too, was arrested as he reached the top, but police did not immediately identify him.

“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.

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. Charges against the 45-year-old Robert were pending, a police spokesman 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 Paolo, Brazil.

The stunt was staged at the Renzo Piano-designed Times building, just a block south of a busy intersection, across the street from the Port Authority bus terminal and not far from Times Square. It is one of New York’s tallest buildings.

A spokeswoman for the Times, Catherine Mathis, said no one at the newspaper knew of Robert’s plan in advance.

The Times itself has “a very green building,” Mathis noted. “We wanted to minimize our environmental footprint.” She said the ceramic slats save energy by reducing the amount of heat and light entering the building.

Robert said in a news release that he was climbing to mark World Environment Day and “to create support for far greater and urgent action from world leaders on global warming.”

His Web site says he climbs even though he suffers from vertigo and is “60 percent disabled” from previous accidents. It also says that he has been jailed many times but that it does not matter, because he “would rather stay in a prison than in a hospital.”

One city councilman is hoping that Robert gets to know what the inside of a New York City jail looks like.

“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 Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. “If he wants to climb something, he can climb the walls inside his jail cell at Rikers.”

Shaznay Jones was more amused than Vallone as she watched the second climb while smoking a cigarette.

“It looks crazy, like he’s on drugs, like he’s on something,” Jones said. “I never saw anything like this before.”

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