efe-epaLisbon

A picturesque neighborhood on the northern bank of the River Tagus in Portugal's capital was in uproar Wednesday after neighbors discovered that pop star Madonna had been given special privileges which enabled her to park some 15 luxury vehicles at a cheap rate not available to other residents.

The material girl has been given access to municipal land where she can park her fleet for 720 euros ($840) per month, well below the going rate in Lisbon where parking is a nightmare and a private parking spot can cost 120-150 euros a month to rent.

"In our neighborhood, 15-20 parking spots make a huge difference to us," said Luís Newton, spokesman for the Estrela neighborhood, which is considered a "high pressure" parking zone.

The land Madonna has been allowed to park on is situated behind the Pombal Palace, a historic building owned by the city hall and less than a 20-minute walk from the singer's residence, the Palácio Ramalhete, an 18th-century palace just north of the Tagus which was previously used as a boutique hotel.

The star's neighbors consider the City Council has shown Madonna favoritism and the resulting controversy has grown to become a main talking point in Lisbon.

Newton said he has spent two years trying, without success, to get new parking spaces for the residents of his area.

"If you make that much money, you should pay the going rate for parking 24 hours a day," said neighbor Pedro Lopes.

Portugal's Automobile Club (ACP) has also weighed into the argument.

Club president Carlos Barbosa said it was "completely unreal and shameful" that the singer should be singled out for special treatment.

"She is just another resident, even if she has more, or less, money than the rest of us," Barbosa said.

The head of ACP lamented that the council had not created more parking places in a city whose public transport he described as being, "frankly bad."

In his opinion, Madonna's case is just an illustration of how Lisbon has been gentrified.

Property prices have skyrocketed in recent years, fueled by a real estate boom in tourist areas where "foreigners have bought property up heavily to turn them into Airbnb rentals," Barbosa said.

"It doesn't make sense that there are no parking places in Lisbon," he said.

The arrival of well-known celebrities from around the world, such as actors Michael Fassbender, who bought a luxury apartment in the Alfama neighborhood; John Malkovich, who is a partner in several restaurants and a nightclub; and Scarlett Johansson, who also has a house in Lisbon, have helped fuel the boom, he said.

For Barbosa, the mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, has been "beguiled" by celebrities.

"It doesn't make sense, Barbosa said.