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By Tamara Lashchyk

This pandemic has been hard on us all. Our lives have been severely disrupted as we deal with it, each in our own way. Indeed, many have even found a silver lining: reuniting with families, strengthening relationships, and deepening intimacies.

As candidate for the NY State Assembly in New York District 66, I have utilized this time to reimagine our city in a way that would radically shift our social thinking (a novel idea for a politician: shifting our thinking instead of passing more legislation!) 

Instead of solving problems by implementing laws gamed with loopholes, I propose an innovative approach to fixing our social fabric. For example: the Fulton Houses housing project in Chelsea, a subject of much recent debate. Current proposals would convert the NYCHA housing to 70 percent market rate apartments with 30 percent set aside for NYCHA residents.

Current dwellers are distrustful, scared that private landlords will eventually displace them. Moreover, we’ve often witnessed public housing deteriorate to unlivable standards. Repair costs load undue burdens onto taxpayers, while systemic corruption leads to decline of managed programs originally meant to be well-intentioned—a situation where no one really wins. 

As a career coach and former Wall Street executive, I have long pondered over success. My decades of study have taught me that improving your lot in life is 85 percent mindset and only 15 percent strategy and mechanics. My greatest challenge as a coach is to teach clients to adopt a wealth mindset and remove the barriers holding them back.

You are the average of the five people you hang around with most. This extends to your philosophy and your finances. Associating only with poor people makes your chances of leaving poverty slim, unless you change your overall mindset. Allowing NYCHA dwellers to live in a housing development along with market renters can greatly increase their chances of bettering their lots—provided they have the right support and programs. This is easier said than done, but with political will, I believe it can be achieved. The first step is to show people what is possible, and then provide them tools to get there. Accountability is one such tool.

In the richest country in the world, I always rejected the notion that only five percent should enjoy our country’s wealth. Under our current economic system, opportunities are limitless. The failure of our system is not capitalism, but our school system— that doesn’t teach our children how to succeed, or even the basics of how to manage money. We are settling for a standard far lower than mediocre.

Actually, 85 percent of education occurs before we are four years old. We are all born wired with confidence that invites us to believe in possibilities. We ingest life with vigor, and dream big. Later, social constructs kick in, programming us to accept limitations, stuck in a destiny where climbing to the next socio-economic strata becomes nearly impossible. We are imprisoned by our own minds.

Now, what if, instead, we reimagined the Fulton Houses project as an escape from poverty—and from public housing? Focusing on an individual’s needs to create a path to success would harness each person’s full potential. This is merely one example, but every strata of our society and industries faces a unique set of challenges. 

If we don’t take a new approach and think more creatively to solve current problems, we will fall short when addressing future challenges as they arise. Change must ultimately start with our politics.

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