Watch CBS News

Political newcomer races against Assembly members for Harlem council seat

Political newcomer facing Assembly members for Harlem council seat
Political newcomer facing Assembly members for Harlem council seat 02:52

NEW YORK - There's a three-way race for Harlem's District 9 City Council seat, heading into the Democratic primary, after the incumbent Kristin Richardson Jordan withdrew from the election. The candidates share similar views on major issues, with different ideas on approach.

All three promising to improve the lives of people in Harlem's central district, political newcomer Yusef Salaam faces two current State Assembly members, Al Taylor and former council seat holder Inez Dickens.

"Members of the community asked me to return to the city," Dickens said of her decision to return to the local level. "I'm not able to provide the resources to the community that I was able to do in the City Council. The City Council is local, your budget is local, whereas in the state, it's statewide for the most part."

Representing the district next door in the Assembly is Taylor, pastor and Army veteran.

"My faith is my orientation that reminds me that I can," Taylor said. "I made some mistakes, but you can get up, and making sure there are resources in places that people can get that second chance."

Salaam also got a second chance. His political experience may be limited, but he spent 34 years fighting a false rape conviction, seeing the failures in the criminal justice system firsthand.

"Those who have been close to the pain have to have a seat at the table," Salaam said. "Gone are the days where someone is going to be able to articulate for you exactly what it is that you really need."

Today the Exonerated 5 walk past the gate named in their honor, but that is not the only change in the neighborhood. Across the street, the old Lincoln Correctional Facility recently opened to asylum seekers, and a more affluent type of tenant now calls Salaam's old building home.

"This was literally the gateway into Harlem," Salaam said of the former Schomburg Towers.

Salaam says the towers represent the real estate battle happening in Harlem, and he believes mixed-income and mixed-use projects like the proposed One45 development could be beneficial, if done right.

"I think that that space can, in fact, be one of the green beacons that show us how we can move forward," said Salaam.

Dickens is most proud of her track record on housing, aiming to have her own seat at the table for a One45 deal.

"I come from a real estate background," Dickens said. "In order to be able to negotiate and navigate with a developer to create the most number of residential units ... everything cannot be low income. It should be a mixture in order for the building to survive."

She also wants to help Harlem's buildings eradicate rats.

"Rats can get into bags," she said, gesturing towards piles of garbage on the sidewalk, "and what I have advocated for with the city is to have those large metal containers."

Dickens is admittedly less certain about the solution to the neighborhood's problem with drug use. Taylor believes individual, inspirational connections can spark a change in someone's life.

"Serving for me it is when I walk into a public school or senior center, it reminds me to remind them that life is not over yet," Taylor said. "Dream big."

Each candidate shares care for the community they call home. Primary Election Day is June 27.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.