Known as Broadway Bill to Bayside residents, a homeless man died Friday on the same bench where he spent many days and nights.
William Bateman, a homeless man who neighbors said was a fixture around the community was found dead on a bench outside the Bayside railroad train station on 41st Avenue early Friday.
The man was spotted motionless on a bench at around 7 a.m., according to Ahmed Ifdikhar, who runs the newsstand at the train station.
“I saw him at around 5 a.m. and he was alive, I think. Then I saw he wasn’t moving, so I called the police,” Ifdikhar said, adding that Bateman regularly bought cigarettes and muffins from the newsstand. “I’ve seen him here for years. I never had a problem with him.”
No cause of death was known, but police said they do not suspect criminality and the investigation was ongoing.
Police brought Horace Brown, who had known Bateman for a number of years, to the scene to identify the body. Brown said he had lived with Bateman in Bayside for a while, but kicked him out when his drinking became a problem.
“He was a nice fella, but he was a drinker and he didn’t believe in showering, so my wife said he had to go,” said Brown, who added Bateman’s brother told him he had been in and out of the hospital with liver problems recently. “He was a loner. He just wanted to drink alone and watch the trains.”
Passersby stopped by the small park adjacent to the train station to ask about the homeless man who had died. Frank Collins said he was one of many residents in the neighborhood who would speak to Bateman on a regular basis.
“We knew him as Broadway Bill because he worked at an old lumber store in Bayside called Broadway Lumber,” said Collins, who said he spoke to Bateman once in a while about everything from the weather to Bateman’s drinking problem. “He said he was planning to move to Alabama after Labor Day to live with his sister and try to quit drinking.”
Bateman also told his former roommate Brown about his plans to kick the drinking habit in Alabama. Brown said he was skeptical about his friend’s determination to get sober.
“I told him I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “He used to wait outside the liquor store in the morning, waiting for it to open. He had that problem for a long time. His liver was just ate up.”
Others in the neighborhood shared positive memories of Bateman, remembering him as a quiet man who could be seen feeding birds outside the railroad station.
“He wasn’t noisy and he wasn’t rowdy,” said Carlo Ferrante, who lives across the street from where Bateman’s body was found. “People bought him coffee from time to time and sat and talked with him. He was well-known around here.”
Reach reporter Steve Mocsco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2012 Community News Group
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