By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — An Upper West Side condo board is pumping up its battle against a breastfeeding center in its building.
The board of the Pythian condominium is suing longtime ground-floor tenant The Upper Breast Side, a breastfeeding education and resource center, alleging that the group is illegally operating a retail store in the condo building.
But the breastfeeding group, which has been in 135 W. 70th St. since 2007, says it's not a store — it's a community resource for breastfeeding moms.
The lawsuit, filed last month in New York State Supreme Court, contends that only doctors' offices are allowed in the four units on the ground floor of the 84-unit Pythian building.
The legal action marks an escalation in an ongoing dispute between the condo and the breastfeeding business, first reported in the New York Times in March.
After the condo board fined Upper Breast Side for keeping its front door open, owner Felina Rakowski-Gallagher filed a discrimination complaint with the state Division of Human Rights.
The lawsuit says both condo rules and zoning laws prohibit retail uses in the building, and that Upper Breast Side violates those regulations because it sells nursing bras, breast pumps and other breastfeeding gear.
The condo board wants the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting retail sales in the space. The board president and the attorney representing the board could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Rakowski-Gallagher insists her business isn't a retail store — it's a community resource center where new mothers struggling with breastfeeding come for advice and support.
On Monday, she fielded questions from a reporter while giving two women a detailed run-down on the pros and cons of a nursing pillow that Rakowski-Gallagher had tested herself.
Client Jessica Haller, a 36-year-old mother of three, said she drove to center from the Bronx because the Upper Breast Side provides a nurturing setting that she wouldn't find at a place like Buy Buy Baby.
Haller said she had spent an hour and a half in the back room chatting with other mothers while trying on nursing bras and feeding her three-week-old baby.
"New moms are going to come here and get things they know are safe and well-tested and approved," Haller said. "You're going to get things you can trust."
Rakowski-Gallagher pointed out that Upper Breast Side has no windows displaying merchandise. Clients don't just stumble on the Upper Breast Side and walk in, they seek out the business because they've heard about its services from friends, she said.
The Upper Breast Side provides referrals to lactation consultants and runs a "Milk Bar" where moms can test breast pumps before they buy or rent them.
Rakowski-Gallagher puts her personal cell phone number on hot pink stickers affixed to breast pumps that she rents, so moms can call her day or night with questions. She said she's answered calls on Christmas and New Year's Eve from anxious moms.
"Sometimes this pump is the difference between whether the baby gets to have your breast milk or not," Rakowski-Gallagher said. "At least you have a life line."