Some Smithsonian Institution employes, protesting the relocation of public parking due to fears of terrorist bombings, distributed leaflets to museum visitors yesterday warning that the area is under a "perceived security threat" and that tourists would be parking "at risk to your person and property."
Scientists and other staff members at the National Museum of Natural History are angry that Smithsonian officials moved the public parking area to their open-air lot from the underground lot at the Air and Space Museum.
Smithsonian officials said the move was made because there is more danger from bombs detonating in underground areas than in open spaces.
The Senate of Scientists, representing about 150 professional staff members at the Museum of Natural History, wrote Smithsonian Secretary Robert Adams that it is "outraged . . . . We cannot comprehend your actions."
The scientists complained that Adams announced the decision Friday, only one day before it went into effect, and without giving them or Robert Hoffmann, Natural History's new director, time to respond. And, they said, Smithsonian officials did not take into account disabled Natural History staff members, who now must park six blocks across the Mall at the new staff lot at Air and Space.
Observers said few visitors at Natural History turned away yesterday after receiving the leaflets.
Hoffmann said the decision is having "a severe effect on staff morale," and that there are traffic jams involving visitors' cars and delivery trucks in the Natural History lot.
"We're very sensitive to their concerns," said Smithsonian spokeswoman Madeleine Jacobs. "There's a Smithsonian person at a high level following up on every issue they've raised."
Smithsonian officials said they made the announcement on short notice to discourage a terrorist attack. They said they will try to find parking for disabled employes near their work areas.