Dr. Yusef Salaam, exonerated Central Park 5 member, to run for NYC Council

Dr. Yusef Salaam, a member of the ‘Exonerated Five,’ has announced that he is running for New York City Council. 

Salaam is hoping to win the seat for District 9, which covers Central and East Harlem, along with Morningside Heights and the Upper East Side.

RELATED: Gate of the Exonerated unveiled in Central Park

"As many of you know, when I was 15," said Salaam, at a campaign rally on Saturday, "Donald Trump took out a full page ad, calling for the state to kill us."

While Salaam may be a well-known figure in the community, winning the election could still prove to be a challenge.  

Many New Yorkers know Yusef Salaam from when he was 15. In 1989, Salaam, along with four other black and Latino teens were wrongfully convicted of rape and assault, serving nearly seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit. 

Thirty-three years later, Salaam says he is ready to serve his community.

"My priorities are housing budget mental health, safety, all of the things Harlem speaks to me about," Salaam said.  

District 9 is currently represented by Council member Kristin Richardson Jordan, a Democratic Socialist who has advocated for abolishing the police and recently nixed a mix-used development on West 145th Street, saying the project would push people of color out of the neighborhood. The developer turned around and instead made it a truck depot and an eyesore according to residents.

But even with the backlash against Jordan and his national name recognition, Salaam still faces a challenge.

"She still has the advantages of being an incumbent," said Basil Smikle, Director of Public Policy Program at Hunter College. "She can talk about her record; she'll be able to raise money."

Salaam joins District 9's other challengers, Assembly Members Al Taylor and Inez Dickens, with analysts warning that a crowded field usually means a win for the incumbent. 

"They've done what they've done," Salaam said, "but I'm ready to show you what I can do."

With no Republican contenders for the District 9 seat so far, that means the winner of the Democratic primary on June 27th will be the de facto winner of the general election in November.