I'm a native NY'ker and have been here during the the 80's..most of the 90s (college was in upstate NY, so I was still around), and most of this century, with 1 year in NC and 2 years in PA.
I am NOW back in Manhattan in the East Village. Expensive. You betcha. But it's worth it if you are young, making decent money (60K BARE MINIMUM), and looking for your mate, and also looking to start your career or REALLY enhance it. Bike lanes are now EVERYWHERE, so I really have no transportation costs as I bike to work, then this is the place for you. There's so much to do, I've been here most my life and I'm still not bored, and still have tons of options probably for the rest of my entire life.
I can walk outside my apartment and there's tons of stuff going on. A theatre on my block, historic bar, art gallery, and this is a side street. I love it to DEATH really. Only thing that would make me move is the weather. I'm pretty sure I'll find my soul mate here for sure, as you'll find hip, brilliant, and well connected people here who are into their careers and whatnot.
Here's the thing. If you are NOT career-oriented, don't have a lot of money or the potential to get that, got connections, you will probably be miserable here. People aren't nice, very stuck up, your neighbor definitely does NOT want to know you. however, I grew up here so I have a strong friend-base which helps. There's a reason NYU, which I live by, has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. There's competition for EVERYTHING. Even who is the most non-generically fashionable. A lot of people have a hard time walking around a campus where all the girls looks like smart models. It could make an above-average looking person, looks just average in comparison, so if you're young, you have to keep up.
It will also make you look at things very differently. I now run everyday and lift weights as most people here are fit and I'm on the dating scene, so if you are NOT, you SURE will stand out as the people here have become quite pretentios, and most likely won't turn many heads. I've seen people move here and experience defeaning isolation in a sea full of people due to these very facts. Most people come here with BIG aspirations, only for reality to hit a couple years later. It's HARD to make it here.
Honestly, I wish I made around 90K a year so I could really be comfortable, but hopefully I will be soon. Also taking into account this place is a terrorist target, this may not be the place for the feint of heart. Someone I work with just had a kid, and as soon as he popped out, well he's relocating. Not much of a place for a family as we have the least kids per capita; I think San Fran is second; so it's not really a family place. Your kids will be lucky to have their own room much less a yard to play in.
It's also filled with transplants as most people have moved there from elsewhere, as you'll probably never buy a place in Manhattan unless you are a millionaire or close.
Here's the thing about NYC. You have to have the ability to get a nice sum of money and the ability to get more, or you probably won't like it. Having tons of things to do is worthless if you don't have money to do them.