Director Martin Scorsese has called on New York City planning officials to halt the development of a luxury apartment complex in a Manhattan neighbourhood as he insists the area's "grittiness" inspired his career.

The Oscar winner grew up in the Bowery, a run down area of the city, and credits the neighbourhood and its residents for nurturing his talents.

Scorsese has written a letter to City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden in support of the East Bowery Preservation Plan, which aims to block high-rise and luxury development in the area.

He writes, "Having grown up on Elizabeth Street, the neighbourhood and residents of the Bowery became clear catalysts for turning me into a storyteller. Whether it's Mean Streets or Gangs of New York, the influence of the Bowery - the grittiness, the ambience, the vivid atmosphere - is apparent."

The filmmaker urges Burden to leave the area unchanged in the ope that it will continue to inspire a future generation of artists.

He continues, "I urge you to insure that the Bowery remains preserved and intact so its history continues to influence and inspire the upcoming artists of tomorrow.

"The high-rise apartment buildings and condos only create more chaos, more disruption and ultimately offer the Bowery up to the elements of conformity... I hope you sense my urgency in leaving the Bowery rich with history, artistry and distinction."