Near Tremont St. and Ruggles St.

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 5:13pm

It is surprisingly lonely and eerie outside the front entrance to the Boston Police headquarters on a cold January night. There is not much foot traffic here: the building is recessed from both Tremont and Ruggles by a broad sidewalk and an open plaza. I am sitting on a cool slate bench on the inner rim of an ovular memorial area, set off toward the right side of the entrance and distinguished from the rest of the plaza by elegant stone slates underfoot. The memorial is crowned by a shiny police badge.

To my left, the U.S. and state flags ripple on short flagpoles flanking a plaque displaying the Boston Police mission statement about “sharing responsibility to ensure safe, secure and livable neighborhoods.” A blue fence behind the plaque surrounds an empty snow-covered playground area attached to the building. A few footprints through the snow lead from the memorial plaza to a sparsely lit park filled with trees. Separate bike and walking paths wind through this dark and shadowy space away from noisy Tremont St.

On the opposite side of the memorial, a neon blue light rises as a police beacon through a twisting metal sculpture. The Pru and its shorter offspring building stand as a backdrop in the distance. City buses emerge from the road leading from Ruggles Station onto Ruggles St. They merge with Boston school buses and other traffic, their engines rumbling as they wait for the light to turn at Tremont St. The Orange Line and Commuter Rail tracks that pass through Ruggles Station, combined with the major thoroughfare of Tremont St., form a distinct barrier separating this area on the edge of Roxbury from the downtown lights of the Pru.

A Christmas tree still stands lit into the new year at the foot of the large metal antenna tower in front of the police headquarters. The building’s entrance is through a large rotunda surrounded by plates of opaque black glass, which merge with modern stone masonry to encase the building. The only peeks inside are presented through the odd transparent pane. A childcare center near the playground with the letters of the alphabet peppering the indoor walls. The treadmills of an exercise area on the second floor. An old discarded tube TV pushed up against a third-floor window.

The modern brick high-rise across Ruggles St. must be a Northeastern dormitory. The occasional rectangles of light through broad glass windows provide similar glimpses into this building. A long, well-lit hallway lined with cozy red chairs arranged in seating areas. Rows of student mailboxes. A student center. Upstairs, more tables and chairs in the opening at the end of every hallway, few of them occupied. Across Tremont St., toward Roxbury, the high-rise housing looks older. The state of relative disrepair suggests these buildings are not tended to by the university. The new year is a cold one thus far.