HARLEM — From the window of his stepfather's barbershop, Brodie Enoch watched Harlem changing before his eyes in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"They'd say, 'There goes that guy who used to have a good job but lost it because of drugs,'" Enoch, 54, said.
It wasn't long before Enoch, who battled an addiction to cocaine for 14 years, became that guy. But after being clean for several years, Enoch is now a member of the Community Board 11 and works for Transportation Alternatives.
Now, he wants to make a difference in his community as one of the candidates running for the District 7 City Council seat being vacated by Robert Jackson, who is term-limited.
"If you look at my history and the history of Harlem, it's the same," he said. "We've had our down times and now we are where we've always wanted to be."
But with less than $4,000 in campaign funds and at least 13 declared candidates, including Democratic district leader Mark Levine, who has raised more than $100,000, it will be an uphill battle.
"Brodie knows what he's facing," said Alvin Johnson, a member of CB 11 and one of Enoch's supporters. "But what I like about him is that he has a heart for the community."
Standing on West 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue on a chilly morning near a subway station, Enoch pitched his message: he believes his base will be made up of social workers, young entrepreneurs trying to grow their businesses and those who have lived in Harlem for decades.
Several times per year, Enoch plays the bass guitar with the ARC Band, a group of men and women recovering from addiction that he met as a mentor at the Addicts Rehabilitation Center in East Harlem. It's where Enoch received treatment and where he now serves as a member of the board of directors.
Taking a break from belting out soul classics at Gran Piatto d'Oro, an Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue, LaDonna Bell, 44, a graduate of the program, said hearing Enoch describe drug addiction made a difference in her own road to recovery.
"Only you could free yourself," said Bell, echoing Enoch's message.
That's why Bell, who was addicted to cocaine for 20 years but has been clean for a year and a half, thinks Enoch might make a good councilman.
"He's a real person," she said. "He's not trying to run for politically correct reasons. Who can represent the people better than the people?"
Enoch said his campaign is about a few simple principles, including ensuring that people who lived through and supported Harlem when it was a neighborhood in decline now get to benefit from its renaissance.
"We need to set up more resources to help small business owners before they get in trouble because it sometimes seems like they are on an island by themselves," he said. "If you've lived in a community for 10 or 15 years, it shows stability and should count for something. We should aid these people."
Enoch also said he wants to put a stop to the police's controversial stop-and-frisk tactic. As a father of four, including three young men, he says he fears his children and others like them "can be stopped and frisked at any time and maybe run into an overzealous cop."
"We need to reinvest in our youth through existing programs and create new and truly innovative programs. We've gotten rid of the things that have gotten our kids off the street and we wonder why they are standing around," added Enoch.
Despite the odds, Enoch says he plans to stay in the race so that there is someone with deep roots in the community on the ballot. He said too often, those elected to serve a community have little history in the area they serve.
"What frightens me is the possible gentrification of this city council seat," Enoch said. "This seat has been held for quite a while by people who have been from the community for years. They understood not just the people who have recently moved in but the struggle of the folks who have been here for generations.
"We can't lose our connection to the past," he added.