Yusef Salaam, the member of the exonerated “Central Park Five” and recent victor in the City Council primary, is prepared to collaborate with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to enhance Harlem’s living conditions as the upcoming councilman.
Despite being a first-time nominee and defeating Assembly incumbents Inez Dickens and Al Taylor, Salaam’s surprising win signals a change in Harlem’s political landscape.
As a teenager, Salaam was among the five black youths wrongly accused and imprisoned for a notorious 1989 Central Park assault case. They were acquitted in 2002 when DNA evidence identified another suspect.
Despite this background, Salaam revealed post-election that he is not in favor of defunding the police but rather advocates for intelligent law enforcement strategies, including assigning police officers to major crimes instead of managing homelessness.
In his vision for Harlem, Salaam highlighted the need for tax-subsidized affordable housing and expressed readiness to engage with property developers to achieve this.
He stressed the need to balance these programs with community interests, pointing to his negotiation stance on the One45 project—a controversial mixed-use development that Councilwoman Kristin Richardson Jordan blocked.
Salaam also discussed homelessness and education in Harlem. He urged the city to address the homelessness issue with the same enthusiasm it shows toward migrants. In terms of education, Salaam stands for parents’ choice and charter schools, which contrasts with many fellow Democrats aligned with the anti-charter teachers’ union.
He said, “I am all for a parent to have the right to choose where to send their child to school. My stance has always been to advocate for the parent’s right to choose. My only pushback is that I would prefer that charter schools be housed in their own locations.”
Salaam emphasized balance and responsibility in his approach to the community’s social challenges.
He conveyed his concern over drug “safe injection sites” placement in Harlem, insisting that the area should not become the city’s receptacle for such services.