Brooklyn Today January 2: Matt Damon’s Brooklyn Heights Penthouse Sale Breaks Record

The Lede

Happy New Year! Winterfest will not be returning in 2019, pols can now perform weddings, and a Brooklyn man is charged in an international kidnapping scheme. Plus, a Brooklyn Heights penthouse sets a new record,Jay Z gives his grandmother a gift in Prospect Park, and a Dyker Heights man gets his hot chocolate stand shut down. Finally, Brooklyn had the most emergencies in New York City in 2018, we recommend the best brunch spots, and wish a happy birthday to actress and Brooklynite Wendy Phillips.

Imprint

Actress Hailee Steinfeld poses with a flower on the January cover of T Magazine Singapore.

The Rundown

NEW STATE LAW LETS POLS PERFORM WEDDINGS

Your local lawmaker can now double as a justice of the peace, thanks to a new law recently signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that allows members of the New York State Legislature to officiate at weddings. That means members of the Senate and Assembly can lead you and your betrothed in reciting your romantic “I do’s.” Brooklyn lawmakers are taking their newfound status in stride. “I didn’t campaign on a promise of marital bliss but hey, if I can help, why not?” State Sen.-elect Andrew Gounardes wrote on Twitter. (via Brooklyn Eagle)

WHY BROOKLYN’S WINTERFEST WON’T BE BACK NEXT YEAR

Yes, there has been a Santa Claus in residence here. And a few dozen elves, in the form of eager artisans selling their wares, from cozy mittens to deep-fried pickles. But so much else about the inaugural Winterfest at the Brooklyn Museum has been a festival of frustration, including a vocal cast of aggrieved vendors, disappointed customers, contentious organizers and appalled supporters. Winterfest won’t be back next year, at least under current management, a spokesperson for the organizers said. It’s worth asking how such a winter washout could have happened in Brooklyn. (The Bridge via Brooklyn Eagle)

BROOKLYN MAN CHARGED IN INTERNATIONAL KIDNAPPING SCHEME INVOLVING

A man has been charged in the kidnapping of two children whose mother recently fled an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in Guatemala. The FBI arrested Aron Rosner of Brooklyn on charges accusing him of providing financial assistance to members of the religious group Lev Tahor in an international abduction scheme. The FBI said in court filings that the children, 14-year-old Yante Teller and her 12-year-old brother Chaim Teller, were kidnapped Dec. 8 from their home in upstate New York and taken out of the country. (AP via Brooklyn Eagle)

MATT DAMON'S BROOKLYN HEIGHTS PENTHOUSE SALE BREAKS RECORD

A penthouse at The Standish, one of several old elegant hotels in Brooklyn Heights that have been converted to residences, has broken Brooklyn’s residential sales record. The 6,218-square-foot unit at 171 Columbia Heights sold for $16.745 million. Matt Damon was reported to be in contract for the property last year, and it appears that the actor closed on the purchase – the paperwork was signed by Gary Cress of Los Angeles, Damon’s business manager. (The Real Deal via Brooklyn Eagle)

JAY-Z AND BEYONCE GIVE GRANDMOTHER AN ENGRAVED BENCH IN PROSPECT PARK

Jay-ZBeyonce and their children have given Jay-Z’s grandmother, Hattie White, a unique gift — an engraved bench in Prospect Park. The inscription on the bench reads, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. With love and admiration to our root, Hattie White.” White, 93, has been a big influence on Jay-Z and Beyonce’s music. A quote that White made on her 90th birthday, “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade,” reportedly influenced Beyonce’s “Lemonade” album. (Complex via Brooklyn Eagle)

DYKER HEIGHTS MAN’S CHARITY HOT CHOCOLATE STAND SHUT DOWN

Every December since 2015, Dyker Heights resident Greg Maugeri has operated a hot chocolate stand in his aunt’s driveway to accommodate tourists who come to see the area’s famed Christmas lights. This year, he vowed to give the money to a cancer charity and even got a permit for the stand — but local authorities shut him down nonetheless. The city Department of Health told him to close the stand because they said it was illegal. He was given two tickets and a summons and faces up to $4,000 in fines. Maugeri vowed to fight the summons and hired a lawyer. (PIX11 via Brooklyn Eagle)

BROOKLYN HAD THE MOST EMERGENCIES OF ALL BOROUGHS IN 2018

Volunteers for the Red Cross responded to 600 emergencies in Brooklyn in 2018, making it the busiest of all boroughs for crises. For example, Red Cross volunteers responded to a tragic fire on Eastern Parkway in August that left one person dead and displaced 15 families. The same month, volunteers responded to a fire on Coney Island Avenue that left four families without homes. “To start to set them on that path of recovery to tell them this might be the worst day of your life, but it does get better,” Garrison Harward of the Red Cross said. (News12 via Brooklyn Eagle)

Staff Picks

LONG READ

“He Drew His School Mascot — and ICE Labeled Him a Gang Member” (via ProPublica)

ANOTHER LONG READ

The American dream can be traced through Chinese restaurant employees. The work is grueling, but many argue it’s worth it for the opportunity to start a new life(via The Ringer)

CARTOON

A couple enjoys a final moment of peace before the 2020 election season starts. (via The New Yorker)

EAT

Here are the 12 hottest brunch spots in New York City right now, including four in Brooklyn. (via Eater)

NATIONAL BULLETIN

Michelle Obama is the most admired woman in America…A stewardess’ father takes six flights in three days to spend Christmas with his daughter…And a 14-pound, 13-ounce Texas newborn sets a weight record(via Gallup, NYT and USA Today) 

FOREIGN FLASH

Smartphones and easy access to violent porn could be fueling sexual violence in India…The E.U. is spending $1.7 million to bring attention to overlooked female writers…And a heat wave in Australia sets a new high temperature of 120 degrees(via BBC, Quartz and USA Today) 

ROYAL WATCH

 What to Expect From the British Royal Family in 2019″(via Vogue)

EAGLE SPORTS

 “Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs looking like the real deal(via New York Post)

MILESTONES

Happy birthday to Jim Bakker, Kate Bosworth, Brian Boucher, Tia Carrere, David Cone, Taye Diggs, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dennis Hastert, Todd Haynes, Edgar Martinez, Wendy Phillips, Dax Shepard and Christy Turlington!