For over three years, a growing number of business owners on the Upper East Side have struggled to stay afloat while the massive 2nd Avenue subway project drives off their customers. The construction zone now covers a 22 block radius, from 90th to 68th Street, and some merchants say their revenues have dropped as much as 70 percent. They blame the dirt, the garbage, the cracked sidewalks, and the ugly chain-linked fences, among other things. "We can't get a delivery, the trucks can't go through. It's a disgrace to leave this kind of mess," one Second Avenue business owner fumed at a rally yesterday.

The business owners are demanding that the city and state provide financial assistance to make up for their lost revenue, and they're also calling for a real estate abatement law and a sales tax free zone for the area. 50 local business owners and employees joined Sunday's rally, where Ernie Raftopoulos, who owns the 3 Decker restaurant, told CBS2, "It’s beyond me, really, to describe the MTA’s [disregard] for the human lives and for the businesses. It’s a disgrace."

The project was supposed to be done by 2013, but the current estimated completion date is 2017. MTA officials promise that by December they'll complete an overhaul along the construction zone to add better lighting, safer sidewalks and clearer views of storefronts, the Post reports. But as for financial assistance, the Bloomberg administration issued a statement saying, "This is a state project and although the City has been helping these businesses, we believe the state, not the city, should be providing aid." Attorney Norman Siegel, who is representing the business owners, says, "If the action is not taken, we need to seriously consider going to court."