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Longtime Williamsburg Stylist in Limbo After New Studio Found Unsafe

By Gwynne Hogan | December 3, 2015 4:52pm
 Maria Branca and her husband Alex Hoffman are in limbo after the brand new salon that they sunk their savings into was declared structurally unsound by the Department of Buildings, they said. 
Displaced Williamsburg Salon
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WILLIAMSBURG — A longtime hairdresser is in limbo after her salon in a brand new building, where she recently signed a 10-year lease, was declared structurally unsound by the city.

Maria Barca, 35, owner of Self Salon on the ground floor of 120 South 4th St., formerly owned by murdered landlord Menachem Stark, was forced to vacate the salon on Nov. 17, she said.

That was a few days before the city determined that the whole building was uninhabitable because of "substandard structural columns and other elements, primarily in the building’s cellar and first floor," according to the Department of Buildings.

"We put our life here," Barca said. "It was going good, I'd just got myself back on my feet after the move."

For the past decade, Barca had run her salon on Grand Street and when her lease was up this year, she decided to invest in a new space. 

She and her husband Alex Hoffman, who is also helps run the business, signed the lease in December, they said. They spent months five months customizing the space with ironwork, mirrors and light fixtures, and they opened they on May 1, she said, the day their lease was up on Grand Street.

Now she's starting from scratch, again, she said.

"'Why is this happening to us?" a frustrated Barca asked Hoffman during a recent interview.

"It's a New York experience,'" her husband jokingly told her. The pair met two decades ago when they were teenagers growing up in Ridgewood. They moved to Williamsburg about fifteen years ago.

Since getting kicked out, Barca managed to secure four chairs at the nearby Cobalt Salon as a temporary fix, but says she has about two weeks before the bills start piling up. She didn't take a pay check this week so she could make payroll for her employees, she said.

Her insurance company told her they won't cover the loss, though the landlord pitched in some cash for the first week they were displaced, she said.

Neither the Department of Buildings, nor her landlord have given her any timeline for when they might be allowed back in, Barca said.

"For us it's our life," said Barca's husband Hoffman, 36, who works as a super at two nearby apartment buildings. "We raise kids, we have bills like everybody else."

The building is currently owned by an associate of Stark, who's body was found burned in a Long Island dumpster in January of 2014. Stark sold the mostly-completed building to his brother in law Abraham Bernat in 2013 during a bankruptcy proceeding, the Post reported.

The four-story building with 18 apartments and commercial spaces on the ground floor, first received its certificate of occupancy in July of 2014, according to city of records. 

Garden Management the company that manages the building did not return a request for comment.

Until they were forced to evacuate Barca and Hoffman said they no qualms with their landlord. Management had been quick to address repairs and was very responsive about getting the space to fit their needs, they said.

The two are holding out hope that they'll be allowed back in the space before too long.

"It's not all about the money," she said. "It's your life, it's your passion."

Self Salon clients, that has also has a smaller location in Bushwick, 718-599-1449 to set up appointments at their temporary location at Cobalt Salon.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story misspelled Maria Barca's last name.