| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:09

    The area across the street from Svetlana Hair and Nail Salon on Second Avenue and East 96th Street used to be a park. But construction of the Second Avenue subway line has turned the once-popular family destination into a pile of rubble. Like many of the mom-and-pop stores in the area, Svetlana's family-owned business is suffering. Families used to stop by the salon after a visit to the park. Now, their clientele has decreased significantly since construction started, according to Tatyana Murdukayev. "There's a lot of noise. It also smells really badly. A lot of regular people who used to come no longer come here," Murdukayev said. Second Avenue Business Association and Sharon Shoenberg of 2.25 Strategies, an outside public relations firm, have targeted the drop in clientele with a new marketing campaign called Save Our Stores, which conveniently abbreviates to SOS. Shoenberg said Save Our Stores will target nearby residents and inform them about suffering businesses along Second Avenue between East 91st and 96th streets, where most of the construction is currently taking place. "We felt that we needed to tap into the loyalty and good side of everybody in New York. New Yorkers tend to come together in crisis," Schoenberg said. Construction on the west side of Second Avenue, from East 92nd to 95th streets, will continue through January, according to MTA Deputy Press Secretary Aaron Donovan. Prep work for the stretch of Second Avenue from East 69th and 73rd streets started in September and will last for approximately three months, he added. The association is currently spreading the word through a blog and soon-to-launch website, though the group hopes to distribute handouts and host a block party so neighbors can sample food from nearby restaurants. They want to "highlight the merchants individually and let people know the face and personality of the individual merchants in the area," Schoenberg said. Many of the suffering businesses have tried to get economic assistance from the government, but Albany has been reluctant to help. In July, Gov. David Paterson vetoed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Jose Serrano and Assembly Member Jonathan Bing that would have established a grant program to assist the construction-plagued businesses. Murdukayev's family asked for compensation directly from the MTA but was rejected. Now, they are planning to meet with a lawyer. She hopes to receive some assistance and avoid the fate of the nine stores that have closed since construction began. Barbara D'Antonio, a spokesperson for the association and a Second Avenue merchant, is not so lucky. She recently forfeited the lease for her store, Wine Lovers, on East 92nd Street. D'Antonio's business dropped by 15 percent in the first two months of construction and later dropped 40 percent during her peak season, between October and December. "Performance was down in the summer and usually you pick up in September, and there was just no sign of that," said D'Antonio. "It's just not a place where people want to shop." Instead, D'Antonio plans to move to a side street. "I just don't feel the major avenues are catered for small business anymore," she said.