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Separate daredevils climb New York Times building

A pair of daffy daredevils, including an infamous Frenchman dubbed Spider-Man, took turns defying death by scaling the new 52-story New York Times building in midtown Thursday.

Just seven hours after extreme climber Alain Robert was busted by cops atop the 748-foot building at 620 Eighth Ave. about 11 a.m., 32-year-old Renaldo (Ray) Clarke of Brooklyn tried the same stunt.

Both men climbed the latticework facade without safety harnesses or ropes to draw attention to separate issues, global warming and childhood malaria.

"I didn't injure anybody at all," an unrepentant Robert said as detectives led him in handcuffs from the Midtown South Precinct stationhouse.

He said he did not know Clarke and seemed surprised to learn the Brooklynite had followed in his footsteps.

"I just did my stuff for my statements on global warming," Robert said.

Clarke began his ascent as Robert, whose high-risk climbs of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Opera House in Australia have garnered comparisons to Spider-Man, was being driven to Central Booking.

Friends of Clarke insisted he and Robert were not in cahoots - and that Clarke had planned his climb in advance. Clarke heard of Robert's feat earlier that day and told pals he was upset the Frenchman beat him to it.

Nick Ruzhnikov, 27, said Clarke left early from his job as an information technology specialist and headed to the Times building, between 40th and 41st Sts.

"He's kind of crazy, but he's doing it for a great cause," said Ruzhnikov, saying Clarke has been planning the stunt for two years.

Wearing orange pants and a white T-shirt bearing the message "Malaria no more, save the children," Clarke hugged friends and started shimmying up the Eighth Ave. side of the building, using the ceramic tubes of the facade as a ladder.

"I said, 'Are you sure about doing this? Have you thought about the consequences?' " said friend Monica Escobar, 33. "He replied he had thought about it."

As a crowd gathered below, cheering each step, Clarke made it to the 32nd floor on the north side of the building within 15 minutes before apparently tiring. He kept going, however.

"He was getting very exhausted," said Jane Dorogoyer, 37, who works in the building as a Web designer. "He was resting on every other floor."

Dorogoyer snapped photos of Clarke from the 48th floor and made eye contact.

"He asked me what floor he was passing. I showed him with my fingers the he was on the 48th floor. It was our sign language," Dorogoyer said.

As news helicopters hovered overhead, broadcasting the feat live on TV, Clarke eventually made it to the top, where he was handcuffed by detectives and hauled away. The Times newsroom broke into applause.

"He did seem apologetic," said Detective Peter Kecthely, who arrested Clarke. "He knew that he was endangering us and the public."

Clarke was taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

He is expected to face the same charges as Robert: reckless endangerment, making graffiti, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

In the earlier climb, the Frenchman paused at about the 15th floor to unfurl a neon yellow banner reading, "Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week."

"He had his eye on this building. He likes the structure," said Robert's pal, Julie Cohen, a documentary filmmaker.

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