On October 8, 2014 Arnold Diaz, a consumer reporter of the television show “PIX11 Investigates” visited All Faiths Cemetery with his cameraman and a person who contacted Diaz to help locate a plot occupied by his great grandmother and his great aunt.
Diaz, who was let go by Fox-owned WNYW after the station shut down its consumer investigative unit, recently joined the PIX11 investigative team of Mary Murphy and Howard Thompson.
During his aired television show on December 30th, Diaz focused on conditions of a particularly old section of the cemetery, which is categorized as a “public section” where several headstones were in disrepair while others appeared to be facing down, causing difficulties for the person looking for the plot of his family members.
Walking into the main cemetery office, Diaz stated on camera that, “it was time to ask some questions of the people in charge.” However, after watching the Diaz consumer segment on television, former cemetery President and current Chairman, Dan Austin Sr. realized that all of the answers he provided the reporter were excluded from the televised show. Answers, Austin said, that would have easily explained the headstone inquiry, cleared up any misunderstandings as well as point Mr. Diaz in the appropriate directions for additional follow-up information he required for his show.
Austin who is a retired NYPD Detective and who has his parents, grandparents and 15 other relatives interred at All Faiths Cemetery and who initiated programs helping seniors visit loved ones at the cemetery said that by Diaz editing out all the information and explanations he was given, the show that was aired was blatantly misleading and a gross misrepresentation of the facts. “It was the height of irresponsibility and poor journalism,” said Austin who also blames PIX11 for allowing Diaz to conduct and broadcast a “half-baked” investigative report. “Sadly it appears he (Diaz) abandoned any quest for the truth in order to cater to ratings.”
In his report, Diaz stated that he checked with the State Division of Cemeteries and learned that All Faiths Cemetery had almost a million dollars in its general fund and two and a half million dollars in its permanent maintenance fund inferring that the cemetery could use those funds in order to repair the public section in question.
A Conveniently Misleading Report
What Diaz eliminated from his report was the vital fact provided to him by Austin that according to state law All Faiths Cemetery is prohibited from using the funds in question to fix the cemetery section Diaz focused on. But it wasn’t just the information supplied by the Chairman of All Faiths that Diaz decided to omit, it was also the information he obtained from the Director of New York State Department of State Division of Cemeteries, Lewis A. Polishook. Polishook said that on four separate occasions Diaz called his office and asked the same question he had asked Austin regarding the use of permanent maintenance funds to fix the public section at All Faiths Cemetery and on all four occasions both he and/or his staff reiterated the same information supplied to Diaz by Austin, mainly that permanent maintenance funds could not be used under state law for the section in question. However, Diaz decided not to put that information in his report either. In addition, Diaz reported that the State Division of Cemeteries told him that they would be conducting an investigation of All Faiths Cemetery, which surprised Polishook since he stated that he never told Diaz that there would be an investigation but rather a routine audit that is normally conducted for all cemeteries.
Wanting to find a solution to the problem Austin explained to Diaz and the person he was with, that a foundation for the headstone could be constructed and also suggested a perpetual care policy but just like any product or service there would be costs that are paid for by the customer. However, according to Austin, Diaz scoffed at such an arrangement as if All Faiths Cemetery was requesting unusual fees. Austin said that Diaz was indignant and surprised to learn that a cemetery would actually charge for work they perform.
Ignoring the Facts
Austin said that while he was not focused on what motivated the reporter to conceal the facts, he was seeking an apology from Diaz and a follow-up show by PIX11 to be aired that would give all the facts and set the record straight. Of Diaz, Austin added, “I hope he realizes what he did and that while in his position as an investigative reporter, he simply can’t ignore mountain sized facts central to the issue and honestly believe he is justly serving the public.”