Categorized | Letters To The Editor

Letters to the Editor (4/4/13)

Posted on 05 April 2013

IB More Highly Regarded


To the Editor:

Mr. Thomas M. Jones  (“A Step Backwards,” The Sag Harbor Express, March 21, 2013) makes an argument in favor of AP courses over the IB program entirely on financial grounds by stating that students can reduce their college tuition by earning AP credits. Parents should realize that selective colleges and universities generally do not reduce the number of courses required for graduation, or the cost of tuition, on the basis of AP credits. Instead, they allow students to exempt introductory courses and substitute more advanced ones (without changing the total number of courses required for graduation).

Advancement through AP credit may benefit a student’s education. Education should be the primary basis of any college program. The IB program is far more educationally sound because it emphasizes the essential skills that are necessary for success in any career: critical reasoning and writing. This focus on teaching students to think and perform at a high level across a wide variety of fields is fundamentally different from the AP (which is limited to single subjects). The IB develops skills that students will use the rest of their lives.

Based on more than twenty-five years of teaching at the college level and conversations with college admissions officers, I am certain that the IB is an educational program far superior to the AP. Moreover, graduates of the IB program are far more highly regarded by admissions officers than those with AP credits.


Michael FitzGerald

Professor, Trinity College

Sag Harbor resident


Confronting Flood Regs


Dear Editor,

As a design professional who deals frequently with FEMA regulations, I must take issue with the op-ed piece in the March 21 Express “Before the Flood.” I do not wish to comment specifically on the project on Garden Street, which inspired the op-ed; I am not familiar with the project, and many of the neighbors’ concerns about it may well be justified. However, contrary to what the op-ed piece implies, compliance with section R324.3.3 of the New York State Residential Building Code, or “FEMA +2” as it is commonly called, is not optional and is not negotiable, either for homeowners or for local approval boards.

This regulation seems to be specifically designed to force home homeowners in flood zones wishing to undertake even relatively minor renovations or additions to raise their homes, regardless of whether they want to or not. As with many sections of the State Code, R324 is vague with regard to existing structures, particularly historic ones, leaving some room for interpretation by local building and zoning departments. In Southampton Town for example, whether or not FEMA +2 compliance is required for a renovation is determined by whether or not it constitutes a “substantial improvement”. However, substantial improvement there is determined not on logical judgment, but by an antiquated construction cost calculation.

On a recent project of my own, for example, the clients simply wanted to replace rapidly deteriorating siding and windows, add a dormer, and update a 1970’s kitchen. But we found that even this modest program constituted, by town definition, a “substantial improvement” which would force them to raise their house by nearly 5’above its current elevation.

Besides FEMA +2 requirements there are also Suffolk County Department of Health codes and regulations to contend with. One can no longer simply plop a concrete septic tank in the ground as everyone did back in the day. Even in non-flood prone areas, code requirements for new septic systems have become incredibly complex. In flood zones, the requirements are often nearly insurmountable. In a recent project in North Haven, for example, my clients were forced to raise their house by even more than FEMA +2 required, and erect an elaborate (and expensive) series of retaining walls in order to achieve a septic system design acceptable to the SCDH.

We will no doubt be seeing many more projects that require FEMA +2 compliance in the years ahead, indeed I dare say many who object to the Garden St. project will be in for a rude shock when they discover that in order to undertake even modest improvements or repairs to their own homes they must also raise them on new foundations, radically alter grading, erect retaining walls, and/or install elaborate new septic systems. Often even when enacted with the best of intentions, building and zoning codes may result in projects that are less than ideal aesthetically, ecologically, or historically. I urge anyone criticizing such projects to fully understand the parameters of such codes before rushing to judgment.

Anthony Vermandois, AIA

Sag Harbor


Death Wish


Dear Editor,

I’d been driving my jeep with bald tires for months. My friend told me on numerous occasions to buy new tires. I turned a deaf ear to her requests.

My mechanic told me that I could have a blowout while driving with these tires. I ignored him completely.

I was stopped and talked my way out of a summons, indicating that I was just on my way to buy new tires. The officer let me go.

I visited an old friend who owned a funeral parlor. He looked at my tires and said: “You better buy new ones unless you want to me to bury you.” That friend finally knocked some sense into me. I had new tires put on my jeep the next day. It took an undertaker to persuade me to buy new tires. I was fortunate that we had met before I could have become a customer of his and also hurt somebody else. I asked myself, “What’s wrong with me?” Do I have a death wish?

I began to think about death wishes other people must have.

Doctors tell us smoking causes cancer, yet we keep smoking…

We are warned that being overweight increases our chances of having a heart attack or stroke, but we keep overeating and not exercising enough…

We’re told that the abuse of prescription drugs and their overuse can cause addiction, overdose and death, but we keep on taking too many of these drugs…

We all know that “speed kills,” yet we’re always in a hurry and drive too fast, we text while driving, we drive without seatbelts.

We tell ourselves that we will never get sick or die from smoking, or overeating, not exercising enough, abusing drugs, speeding, texting, etc…It is always the other guy who will become the unfortunate one to get sick or have an accident or die. Take a good look in the mirror. The other guy could end up staring right back at you some day.

Pretend for a moment that I’m your friendly undertaker. Do you want to see me now, or in the near future, or would you prefer to see me in the far distant future after living a full, happy life? The choice is up to you….long life, short life.

Richard Sawyer

Sag Harbor


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