A Bloomberg News dispatch begins:
Billionaire John Paulson's $100 million donation to New York's Central Park Conservancy threw into relief inequities between parks frequented by the wealthy and those in less affluent neighborhoods.
And goes on in that vein. The New York Sun used to use that "threw into relief" language all the time in editorials, but to see that journalist device in a Bloomberg wire story is an eye-opener. It's almost reflexive in some newsrooms, this tendency to turn every news event into an opportunity for another sermon on the evils and unfairness of asset inequality.
To me the real proof that these "inequities" are an ideological construct rather than reality-based has to do with what actually goes on in the parks. Central Park isn't getting the $100 million because it was "frequented by the wealthy." The story is that Mr. Paulson's grandparents had their first date their in the 1920s, "his mother was pushed in a baby carriage there, and, later, she took him there in his own carriage as a youngster." This was all way before Mr. Paulson was a billionaire. What's more, though Central Park is bounded by some wealthy neighborhoods on the West and East, there are plenty of low-income, low-asset users of the park (it turns out that one can get there by subway or bus from elsewhere in the city!), and there plenty of "less affluent neighborhoods," including housing projects, close to Central Park's northern border and on its northeast and northwest corners.
Meanwhile, Prospect Park in Brooklyn got $10 million from Shelby White, who doesn't live in Brooklyn, for its Lakeside project, which is on the side of the park that is farther away from the more affluent Park Slope neighborhood. Ms. White and her family frequented Prospect Park before she got rich, just as Mr. Paulson and his family did with Central Park. I use Prospect Park regularly and one of the nice things about it is that people walk around there without being followed by billboards declaring their net worth. To the extent that one can make assumptions based on social cues like clothing, bicycles, fancy strollers, food and drink being consumed, language spoken, and the like, there is a real mix of people. I spend somewhat less time in Central Park but all my experience there suggests a similar mix, but with a heavier dose of tourists.
Finally, it's not a zero-sum game. Just because Central Park gets $100 million doesn't mean that there's less money for parks in Queens, Staten Island, or the Bronx — in fact, the private money backing Central Park means that more city tax money is available for those other parks.
The Bloomberg article throws into relief the problem of reporters campaigning to eradicate inequities.