Dear Effective Altruism community,

We are thrilled to announce that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant—a historic estate near Canal Street, serving delicious vegan dim sum since 2018—has been selected as the location for a new EA NYC community center! Effective altruism is all about maximizing the impact of our actions to help others. And what better way to do that than by owning a restaurant?

The restaurant is in the process of being established as a convening center to run workshops and meetings that bring together people to think seriously about how to address important issues. We believe that the cooperative process of deciding on shared dim sum dishes, the dynamic nature of lazy susan tables[1], and the abundance of potent black tea, together foster a collaborative and creative environment key to solving the world's most pressing problems.

EA NYC already runs dozens of events in the restaurant per year (disproportionately in the back right corner, though sometimes near the front door), and we saw several reasons a venue purchase could be valuable for both increasing the number and quality of impactful events, and potentially saving—or even generating!—some money:

  • Excellent value for services (such as a full plate of vegetable BBQ meat for only $8.95)
  • Ideal location (in the heart of Lower Manhattan, easily accessible for EA NYC staff and community members[2])
  • Existing menu can be optimized to ensure maximum nutritional value per dollar spent
  • Both small and large tables available (to accommodate a variety of event sizes)
  • Warm atmosphere (especially near the kitchen)
  • Access to unique forecasting technologies (free fortune cookies with each meal!)
    • We have carefully vetted our fortune supplier to eliminate any morally dubious subcontractors and will not be using whatever company made these:
"You will stumble upon opportunity that only comes around once in an orange moon," but it likely isn't FTT. Photo Credit: Anisha Zaveri
  • Healthy work/community culture (supported by the fortune cookies!):
“Give yourself a day off — at least give yourself a relaxing evening.”

The vision is modeled on traditional specialist conference centres, e.g. Oberwolfach, The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, the Brocher Foundation, and Whytham Abbey - but with a New York City twist. Unlike the aforementioned conference centres, ours will have the advantage of generating additional revenue through existing, robust dine-in and take-out business. We will also spell it “center,” because we live in the United States.

The purchase was made from a large grant made specifically for this. There was no money from FTX or affiliated individuals or organizations. Just trust us on this, okay?

When Open Philanthropy surveyed ~200 people involved or interested in longtermist work, they found that many had been strongly influenced by in-person events they’d attended, particularly ones where people relatively new to dim sum came into contact with a dozen or more dishes in one meal. Many developed a taste for textured vegetable protein, which we believe with 80% credence will extend into the far-future. (Some other data and our general experiences in the space are largely supportive of this too, including the popularity of Manhattan vegan chain Beyond Sushi as a venue for EA NYC subgroup meetings.)

NYC-based EA community builders at our final meeting before securing official ownership.

We understand that some members of the community may have concerns about the acquisition of a restaurant and its alignment with effective altruism principles. However, we want to assure everyone that this decision was not taken lightly. We carefully evaluated Bodhi's track record and business practices—pursuing third-party vetting by esteemed venture capital company Sequoia Capital—and found that it aligns with our values, mission, and EVPM (expected value profit margins). 

We also spent a lot of time contemplating the vibe, and considering whether gathering in this vegan dim sum restaurant would inspire us to think about the wellbeing of those in the far future.[3]

We want to take this opportunity to address some of the recent conversations around effective altruism and castles. When we decided to undertake this project, we also considered the purchase of the White Castle in Jersey City, New Jersey.[4] Ultimately, we decided that the local stock of castles left something to be desired.

White Castle has several vegan options, but not the breadth of Bodhi’s. Also, we found that its architecture does not encourage multi-century thinking.

We are confident that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant will be an excellent choice for the EA NYC community center, and we invite everyone to come and check it out for themselves.

The closing documents were signed today, April 1st! And we invite you to our next monthly EA NYC community dim sum social on April 14!

The Effective Altruism NYC Team

Acknowledgments: The authors are deeply indebted to the hardworking staff of Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant, who have welcomed us time and again, and have served us so many wonderful meals. We also thank EA NYC board member Jacob Eliosoff for introducing us to Bodhi, EA NYC community coordinator Alex Rahl Kaplan for arranging countless events at Bodhi, ChatGPT for its contributions to this post, and the several serious and thoughtful EA Forum comments we plagiarized and parodized herein.

  1. ^

    It is no secret that interior design choices, particularly highly inspirational tables, are an important part of mitigating x-risk. There is documented evidence they have “a pretty large effect on good conversations happening” when they “hit the right balance of being visually interesting without being too distracting while also being functional.” What is more functional than a lazy susan? We are pleased to announce that three large lazy-susan-equipped tables, each capable of seating 12 effective altruists and approximately two dozen small share plates, come complimentary with our restaurant acquisition.

  2. ^

    Canal Street MTA locations often have propped exit doors, allowing non-risk-averse, cost-conscious EAs to access local stops while saving on the $2.75 fare.

  3. ^

    It totally did.

  4. ^

    Another historic property, known for their delectable, tiny veggie burgers. 

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This decision sounds positive EV to me. I'm especially excited by your acquisition of a brand new forecasting technology. 

I do have a question. It's disappointing albeit unsurprising that NYC castles are not up to par (European castles have better aesthetics in my experience), but did you consider the local manor houses as well? There's often a big difference between castles and manor houses. 

>There's often a big difference between castles and manor houses.

This came up several times during the course of our project, invariably from folks who live outside of NYC. No one on our team could figure out what they were talking about.

To try to find out, we secured a grant[1] to commission researchers at the Global Risk Lab at NYU to create a battery of specialized psychological tests. Unfortunately, no one on our team could accurately differentiate between the concepts of "castle" and "manor house", despite Josh and Lucius showing us flashcards until they burst into tears.

We're unsure of the cause of this cognitive blind-spot, but we strongly suspect it's because we're all a bunch of peasants.

  1. ^

    The spare change we found under Jacob Eliosoff's couch cushions.

Insiders know that EA NYC has ambitious plans to sprout a whole network of Bodhi restaurants. To those who might criticize this blossoming "bodhi count," let's not indulge in shaming their gastronomic promiscuity. After all, spreading delicious vegan dim sum and altruism is something we can all savour.

We wouldn't be the first uh, social movement to spread our message via BBQ seitan.

Exciting news! There are a few things I'd like clarification on.

How much did this cost? I understand they money didn't come from FTX sources, but where did it come from?

There isn't any cell reception in the back corner. Do you plan on fixing this?

I don't know if you have any plans for renovations, but please don't remove the drop ceiling! It absorbs echos and facilitates high-fidelity conversation.

>How much did this cost? 

Approximately $25million for the initial purchase, which when you consider the price of NYC real estate and the anticipated gain in NALYs (noodle-adjusted life-years) is an absolute steal.

>I understand they money didn't come from FTX sources, but where did it come from?

Rocky found a duffle bag full of money on the J train at 3am and I reverse-catfished a Facebook romance scammer. Alex and Arthur raised the balance of the down payment by busking at the Union Square subway station (they both play the accordion).

>There isn't any cell reception in the back corner. Do you plan on fixing this?

I'm glad you asked! Many members of the community find that avoiding cell phone use during periods of intense work helps them stay on-task. We anticipate that the back corner of our vegan dim sum restaurant will be an excellent place for sustained focus.

>please don't remove the drop ceiling!

I'm way ahead of you - I love it so much I've asked my building super to install a trendy "distressed" drop ceiling in my apartment!

On the surface, this looks like a fantastic idea. Love it!

We are 94% certain that this is the greatest thing that EA NYC has ever done. 

Wait is the lazy susan built into the table itself? Now that's flexible career capital!

We've also ordered ten custom lazy-susan tables from Japan.

Looking forward to more meetups at the Dim Sum venue! By the way, on the avenue next to the White Castle in Journal Square, Jersey City there is blocks of Indian restaurants with excellent vegan and vegetarian options! (I tried every restaurant there by the time I graduated from Hudson County Community College a couple blocks away, haha.)

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