An idea that started out as a joke has snowballed into a petition with more than 310,000 signatures, as of Thursday evening.
The petition, posted to MoveOn.org by Los Angeles resident Elizabeth Rowin, calls on the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio to rename a portion of Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower in honor of former President Barack Obama.
"I saw a tweet joking about it and I thought I can take that good idea and run with it," Rowin, 56, said Wednesday. "I thought, nobody’s going to do it, so why not me."
Rowin started the petition, which requests that Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets be renamed "President Barack H. Obama Avenue," in December 2018. If fulfilled, the address for Trump Tower, where the president lived before moving into the White House, would become 725 President Barack H. Obama Ave.
After the petition took off, garnering about 40,000 signatures by January, Rowin said she emailed members of the City Council to gauge their interest. "They said they would look into it," she added.
The petition stalled for a few months, until a man from Scotland tweeted about it over the weekend, Rowin said. It has since gone viral, and picked up thousands more signatures.
Rowin increased the goal Thursday afternoon to 325,000, and by the evening it had 310,069 signatures.
Rowin said she expects the City Council to take the petition seriously. However, it would face several hurdles, including approval by the community board where the street resides and a full vote by the City Council. The City Council also has a policy to only approve street renamings for people who have died.
"As much as I love the idea of celebrating President Obama, I am not positive this is the best way. The Obamas epitomize class, dedication to public service and respect for the Oval Office," Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. "I’m pretty confident we can find a better way to honor the greatest president of my lifetime than by trolling the worst president of my lifetime."
Although the mayor is named in the petition, he does not have a role in approving street renaming proposals.
"We’re always happy to see New Yorkers finding creative outlets for resistance. Ultimately, we’ll let the council determine how this should proceed," a spokeswoman from the mayor’s office said Wednesday.
Rowin said she plans to deliver a certified version of the petition to several City Council members who previously expressed interest.