Of course, no one calls Sixth Avenue by its official moniker: Avenue of the Americas. The street got this formal and cumbersome name in 1945. But why—and whose bright idea was it?
The blame starts with Sixth Avenue business owners. In the 1940s, they argued that the then-dingy avenue (the El had recently been dismantled above it) needed some sprucing up.
One way to do that would be to get Central and South American countries to build consulates and company HQs on the avenue. Real-estate bigwig Leonard Spear took credit for that idea.
In 1945, city council members were convinced, and Mayor La Guardia signed the name change into law. In the 1950s, signs representing different countries in the Americas went up all along the avenue.
The signs never helped the name catch on. Most were taken down for good in the early 1990s, when city lampposts were replaced. But a few rusted ones remain. One still hangs on at Sixth and Grand Street.