NEW YORK (WPIX) — Yusef Salaam wants to bring his unique life experience to New York City government. So he’s running in the Democratic primary to represent Central Harlem in the City Council. 

“Who better than a person who has been affected by the system to have a seat at the table?” Salaam said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with WPIX.

At 15 years old, Salaam found himself under arrest and at the center of one of the most notorious cases in New York City history. Salaam and four other teen suspects became known as the Central Park Five, who are also called the Exonerated Five.

The five teenagers who were accused of raping a jogger were pressured into giving false confessions. They were later exonerated when DNA evidence linked another person to the crime. The teenagers sued the city and the case was settled.

After a long legal fight, the five were exonerated in 2002. Salaam spent seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit. 

Now a husband, father of 10, author and criminal justice reform advocate, Salaam is beginning a new chapter: running for public office. He’s running in the Democratic primary to represent City Council District 9 against Assembly members Al Taylor and Inez Dickens as well as current Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan.

“A big platform that I’m running on is making sure that the budget is pushed in such a way that we benefit more,” Salaam said.

Salaam also wants to highlight issues of public safety and affordable housing in his campaign platform “for people who live in Harlem to be able to have the ability to stay here.”