Located in the Town of Wawarsing in southern Ulster County, the Dharmakaya Center for Wellbeing has now opened its doors in Cragsmoor, New York, to provide a place of retreat, wellbeing and learning focused on the Buddhist teachings of the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition. The center is situated on a 90-acre parcel and includes a large meditation hall with a 10-foot Buddha statue, residential rooms, kitchen, dining and related facilities. The Center is the vision of Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche PhD, and its opening was the culmination of a more than decade-long effort by the Dharmakaya organization’s development team including Cuddy & Feder’s Jennifer Van Tuyl as lead attorney and the late Phillip Cerniglia, AIA, project architect, of Lothrop Associates, LLP.
The size and location of the project required the development of significant engineering, architectural and environmental plans. At the local level, Planning Board review included both site plan review as well as issuance of a special permit for a house of religious worship.
The project also required a full Environmental Impact Statement examining the potential impacts in numerous areas including water, air, traffic, visibility and historic and municipal resources. Based on detailed studies of water supply, a water monitoring protocol was incorporated into the project. The project also incorporates an extensive vegetated buffer around the Hermitage perimeter, protected by a Conservation Easement held by the Town of Wawarsing. The inclusion of natural buffers also serves to protect a habitat for wildlife, and maintain the existing setting of contributing features within the Cragsmoor Historic District.
In 1986, New York’s highest court ruled that the function of religious institutions supports the public welfare and morals, and such institutions should not be excluded from communities even in residential zoning districts. Such institutions must nevertheless provide an analysis of potential impacts, which required significant analysis over multiple years to complete.
The approval process for a project of this scope and nature is rarely straightforward and required immense coordination by the principals of the project and their professional team. But today the Dharmakaya Center for Well Being is open and actively pursuing its mission.