In one corner of a lot on the East River’s edge, clapboard buildings recall classic single-family houses — but too narrow to turn around in, let alone make a home. Nearby, stunted electrical poles dot the asphalt, surrounded by blue gym mats to soften falls. Power lines seemingly go nowhere, since there are no nearby buildings to supply; unmanned utility trucks cluster, but not enough to make a storage lot.
The narrow shacks and abbreviated poles stage hands-on learning for would-be electricians: Con Edison’s Learning Center has administered classes and certification exams on the Long Island City waterfront since 1993. But with enviable transit access and views of Manhattan, these eleven acres have also become some of the city’s most contested real estate. In 2008, former Queens City Council member Eric Gioia accused Con Ed of passing on escalating property taxes to consumers as rate hikes. Glass high rises continue to crop up nearby, casting the shadow of development over this peculiar facility.