September 8, 2018: official announcement of the closure of the New York Shambhala Center:
From: Katherine Lieberson <EMAIL REDACTED>Date: September 8, 2018 at 3:31:05 PM EDTSubject: NY Shambhala **Important Update**
Dear Members of Shambhala New York,I’m writing to you today with an important update. As we all know, the past few months have been a challenging time. The groundlessness across the Shambhala mandala and in our local community is difficult both on a personal and organizational level. As a Center, we have suffered losses across all of our income streams (programming, membership, and donations), as well as a greatly reduced staff team. Over the past few weeks, it has quickly become clear that our operations at 118 West 22nd Street have become untenable and without additional support we will be faced with having to close our Center.We are in negotiations with the landlord to find a solution that will enable us to stay with a greatly reduced rent, but there is no guarantee they will agree to this. Even with a favorable outcome from the landlord, it will take the financial and volunteer support of the membership to be able to continue our operations. If we are unable to come together to support the Center during this time, we will be forced to close at the end of September.I know this news may come as quite a shock. While we were optimistic about our operations at the beginning of the summer, the situation has developed very rapidly. There has not been a clear path forward and we have been working hard to find solutions. Over the past couple of weeks we have been in consultation with our Advisory Council, the Acharya and Shastris, and members of the Patron’s Circle as we navigate these difficult decisions. Now we need the help and support of all our members.How can you help?• Continue or increase your monthly contribution.• Consider making your year-end gift to our Annual Appeal now. DONATE (please put “Annual Fund” in the comment box) or call the office at 212-675-6544. Please feel free to be in touch with me at [(](mailto:email@example.com)EMAIL REDACTED) if you have questions about your gift.• Attend the first of two Members meetings on Thursday, September 13, 7-9pm. This meeting will provide a place for the sangha to come together and hear an update from our negotiation with the landlord. Based on the results of this negotiation, we will know whether we have the option to stay in our space or need to begin the process of closing.• Save the date for a second Members meeting on Wednesday, September 19. This meeting will focus either on our transition process if we are forced to close, or what support is needed to continue our operations if we have the option to stay.• Continue your volunteer service. If you are interested in service opportunities, please contact Dan Schriebman: [(](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)EMAIL REDACTED)
How did we get here?The following information is provided to better help the membership understand our current situation.We began 2018 with a strong strategic plan for growth and a staff to execute it. This plan included a search and hire for an Executive Director. Membership was steadily increasing and we had begun the early quiet phase of raising capital for a real estate fund to seed our next phase of development. We were confident that we would be in a good operating position to finish out our lease in the current space, through March 2020.Even with our plans for growth across all income streams, we would likely have been looking at the need to relocate and even downsize at the end of March 2020. We are simply being priced out of our neighborhood.Given the current crisis in Shambhala, this decision to relocate and downsize has been forced upon us sooner than we expected. Significant loss in program revenue, combined with loss in membership dues, donations, and personnel in the past three months have all had a detrimental effect on our ability to operate.The graphs below outline the effect on program revenue and membership over the past few months, and compares these areas across the past three years.
PersonnelIn addition to these losses in income, we have had significant loss to our staff at the Center. After our Governing Council dissolved in April of this year, it was decided the staff was strong enough to hold the operations of the Center while an Executive Director search took place. We anticipated hiring an ED by early-mid fall of this year. That process of the search and hire of an ED was put on hold when news of the allegations broke in Shambhala. We have had a strong leadership team in this interim period consisting of myself, Sarah Friedel, and Mary Beth Minton; however, as of September, Sarah has had to significantly cut back on her hours and will be leaving her position at the end of the month. Mary Beth and myself have taken cuts as a result of the current financial situation. In addition, I am expecting a baby at the end of this year and will be relocating to Halifax at the end of October. Along with these leadership positions, we have suffered the loss of the majority of our staff, due to financial cutbacks as well as personal reasons, leaving Dan Schreibman as our only current full-time employee.We have had an offer of support from Acharya Eric Spiegel to step into an interim leadership role and work with the Advisory Council, Shastris, and Patron’s Circle to hold the Center during this pivotal time as our existing leadership transitions. If we secure the option to stay in our space, we will need significant volunteer support for our operations to continue.~~~This is a challenging time of bardo, or transition, which is uncertain and might provoke fear. In writing this, I can’t help but reflect on Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s history. He was just 19 years old when the Chinese invaded Tibet. He was faced with the destruction of his monastery, his way of life, his country. Many people he knew were either killed or left behind to an uncertain future. He led a small party on foot over the Himalayas to escape Tibet and eventually to bring the dharma to the West, adapting to new countries and ways of life. Because of his bravery and warriorship in the face of overwhelming chaos and uncertainty, we have the Shambhala teachings and our community. We are all inheritors of that warriorship. This is the time to put it into practice. We have been given the tools we need to rise to this challenge.Regardless of the outcome on 22nd Street, we must remember that our community is not tied to this one physical space. Our connections with each other are what is most vital; and it is those connections with our community, and with the Shambhala teachings, that will form the building blocks for our future in New York, whether here in our current Center or in a new home.I hope to see you on September 13th.With love and appreciation,Katherine