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Luis Newton - ask the president

Ask the boss - Luís Newton

Luís Newton, head of the Estrela parish council, answers questions from Time Out readers about what’s worrying them in one of the most central Lisbon boroughs.

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Editores da Time Out Lisboa

How is the parish surviving the subway construction work? 

A good subway system is of the utmost importance to everyone in Lisbon, and having that in mind, the community of Estrela is having a huge tolerance to all of the construction work that is taking place. There are, however, some (big) issues taking a huge impact on our quality of life. From the huge noises in, and around, Rua de S. Bernardo and the Santos area, to the traffic constraints that promote delays in the Santos area. This latter with prospects of getting a lot worse before it eases.  

What can the parish council do to prevent flooding from heavy rains? 

Flash floods are unpredictable and destructive by nature (literally), however there are some actions that we have been implementing to mitigate its more dire consequences. First, we identified what we call the critical areas within Estrela, areas more susceptible to floods during these events. This is where we place extra teams prior to the event itself, checking all drainage systems, ensuring they are in optimal operation status, and we alert our community in advance so that they can move to ensure their properties. That is why the new Lisbon Drainage System, that has been postponed for the past ten years, is so important, because it will ensure that we are not so dependent on tides. 

How is the parish council solving the garbage issue, found in all its streets?

Although garbage removal is not the responsibility of the boroughs (like Estrela) but of City Hall, we recognize it as a very important issue to our community, and also to City Hall. Therefore, we have been preparing teams specifically for this operation, and we bought special equipment for it. We also applied for a special authorization from City Hall to a Pilot Test of our capabilities so that we can be of service to the community in this area.

Couldn’t the Estrela Garden stay open later during the summer? 

Estrela Garden is not yet managed by the Estrela Borough, but by City Hall. It has many issues that must be addressed, and its closing hours is one of them. But we also need to improve its maintenance, and better manage some events that take place there. This is another case where we also applied for a special authorization from City Hall to transfer Estrela Garden’s management to the Estrela Borough.  

When will a permanent popular fair be held at the Terraplano de Santos grounds?

We are developing a small carnival fair in Terraplano de Santos, because we strongly believe that Lisbon must have several of such areas for entertainment. That specific area by the river presents a good opportunity for such a venue. Imagine our own Lisbon Eye in Terraplano de Santos with surroundings providing good old fair entertainment and some local products on sale. It would be unbeatable. We are working with City Hall and Administração do Porto de Lisboa (Lisbon Harbour Administration) to improve the model and to mitigate any negative impact to the surrounding community. 

What can we do to help prevent Lisbon from the big sellout? It’s almost too late.

Lisbon is immortal because it is a city historically built by different cultures, religions and civilizations, but still in danger of losing some of its classical enchantments. I admit that the answer to your question, although simple in words, can be complex in actions. We have to stand fast on the idea that those who come to visit Lisbon, or those who come to live here, must respect and dignify our traditions and way of life. From local neighbourhoods to the modern buildings, all must accept that we live as a community and for that community. That there can never be the “I” over “We”, and that our neighbours are our strongest bonds. Learning to respect that is, in fact, respecting Lisbon’s identity. That applies to everyone, having born in Portugal or not.

This article was published on Lisbon by Time Out newspaper, January 2023 edition.

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