For the past few years, commuters at the Long Island Rail Road's Mineola station would brush past a homeless man who seemed pleasant enough and never asked for spare change.
Earlier this week, the man parked an old tan couch under a bridge, not far from where riders board the train. He looked comfortable reclining on his repurposed sofa with the billowing cushions, occasionally greeting riders coming to and from the station.
But when someone saw him sipping a beer in his underwear Wednesday, it became the latest example of what village officials and some residents have said for months: He's been looking a bit too comfortable.The man and his newly acquired couch have created a nuisance, they said, and it's time for him to move on.
Mayor Scott Strauss said the homeless man has frequented the Mineola station off-and-on for almost three years. Mineola officials have met in the past year with Nassau and Metropolitan Transportation Authority police as well as agencies advocating for the homeless for brainstorming sessions aimed at getting him off the streets, Strauss said.
The man hasn't been interested in leaving, the mayor said. His choice to remain homeless has put those looking to help him in the position of confronting the limits of getting people off the streets.
“They have and continue to reach out to him and he refuses all help,” Strauss said. “People call him homeless, but he chooses to live there. The homeless advocate agencies say 'we can't force him.'"
Asked to comment Thursday, the man declined.
His living arrangement near the LIRR station reached its tipping point Tuesday when someone dumped the couch nearby. He moved the couch onto Station Plaza Road under the Mineola Boulevard overpass and used it to rest.
Village workers removed the couch Thursday and plans are in place to powerwash the area Friday, Strauss said, adding that he is still looking for ways to get the man a permanent residence.
"I don't know what the next step is, but he's not a homeless individual," Strauss said. "This is the place he wants to live, but he's causing people to be unnerved and uncomfortable."
The couch generated hundreds of comments Wednesday on Facebook groups populated by Mineola residents and merchants. Commenters noted that a multistory apartment complex is under construction near the train station and wondered if a homeless person's presence could deter new residents.
Mineola resident Tamara Ficarella said she has talked to the homeless man occasionally for about three years. He is not the typical homeless person, she said, because he doesn't panhandle and is usually friendly.
"He legitimately loves being on the street and socializing with people," she said. "Only here recently has he been leaning more on the side of being a nuisance."
Seeing the man and his couch saddened and frustrated her, said Mineola resident Allison Funk, adding that she observed him drinking a beer Wednesday.
"When I first saw it [the couch], it was upsetting because a couch, to me, signifies home," Funk said Thursday, "and I don't think a home should be under a bridge."
CORRECTION: A man photographed resting on a couch near the Long Island Rail Road station in Mineola is not the homeless man described in the story. The reference was incorrect in a previous caption accompanying this story.