Mourning an N.Y.U. Fixture Who Kept Fast-Paced Students and Drivers Alert

For years, students at New York University grew accustomed to seeing John Votta at his usual spot, where Washington Place meets Washington Square East in Greenwich Village.

The location is busy with students rushing to class, and also a bit chaotic with vehicular traffic, which is why Mr. Votta, over the past decade, had appointed himself the university’s unofficial traffic cop — and screamed at drivers to slow down.

Mr. Votta, who was said to be 70, also became known as “the Timekeeper” because he would constantly give students updates of how many minutes they had left before class.

But at his usual spot on Thursday, on the east side of Washington Square, Mr. Votta and his unmistakable voice were noticeably absent. Instead, there was a makeshift memorial.

On a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notebook were the words “John Votta 1942-2012.”

There was a framed photograph of Mr. Votta posing with two watches on each wrist. With it was the message, “Dear John, thanks for keeping us safe. Rest in Peace.”

“He wasn’t an official member of the N.Y.U. community but he left more of an impression on students than many faculty members,” said Natasha Raheja, 26, of Brooklyn, a doctoral student of anthropology who stared at the memorial on Thursday afternoon. “He reminded us that it’s the small things we do that matter.”

He called the spot hazardous for distracted students rushing to class. His warnings, echoing through nearby streets, became mantras to students and local residents.

Roland Velez, a doorman who works on the block on West 12th Street where Mr. Votta lived and who became one of his closest friends over the past 15 years, said Mr. Votta had a heart ailment and a pacemaker, and had been hospitalized recently for feeling faint and weak. Mr. Votta had not been seen leaving his apartment over the weekend, and Mr. Velez finally called 911 on Monday, he said. Mr. Votta was found inside dead.

“John did everything for everybody and wanted nothing in return,” Mr. Velez said.

In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Votta said he was a lifelong bachelor who lived on an $870 monthly Social Security check and paid $60 a week for a rent-regulated furnished room on West 12th Street, with a hot plate and a common bathroom in the hall.

Although he had no official affiliation with the university, he tailored his appearances to match the semester. He would put in a morning and an afternoon shift every school day. He was known for wearing multiple watches on each arm to better keep time and to update students on when class was starting.

On Thursday, there was a wristwatch buckled to an iron fence near the memorial, and a toy clock with the words, “You will always be our timekeeper.”

Two college seniors, Anastasia Moryakova, 21, and Randy Ray, 22, stopped at the memorial and discussed the possibility of raising money from the student body to get a statue of Mr. Votta erected there.

“A tribute to his legacy,” Ms. Moryakova said.

Starting a Johnny Votta scholarship was suggested, and Ms. Moryakova laughed and said it could be awarded to a prompt student.

“You don’t have a 4.0 average but you’ve never been late to class,” she said.

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