I've got mixed feelings myself regarding these listings. Sure, they give some kind of idea of what cities are considered desirable to live in but ultimately people have to choose depending on a set of factors that are only meaningful to them.
Case in point: I've lived in NYC all my life but I certainly won't boast about it since I obviously can't compare with anywhere else. Besides, I would be the first to say that this city is DEFINITELY NOT for everyone, and the advantages I enjoy living here are due to things I can't take credit for.
My parents established themselves here in the 70's when decent public housing for middle-class families was readily available in the city although in those years, New York was considered a shithole by most Americans (compared to the respect and sympathy it gets nowadays thanks to 9-11) . . . and the city really almost fell off the cliff during those times, but I was just a child back then so I wasn't really conscious of that.
My parents stayed throughout the eighties and nineties because of the deep ties they have with our neighborhood church (they met there and to this day still do a lot of church-related activities). Otherwise, I think we as a family unit would have left if those strong ties didn't exist.
Likewise, I continue to stay because of job opportunities and ironically, relatively low cost of living. I've taken over the lease of the 3 BR
apartment my parents had and the rent is less than $1K a month, a steal compared to the free market. There were issues in the past over rowdy neighbors, crime, and crappy facilities but those three factors have improved remarkably over the past 5 - 10 years. The bad neighbors moved years ago, there have been building improvements and facelifts, and the entire complex (& the city in general) is safer than ever.
Living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan also means one more thing: I don't need a car.
My monthly transportation cost to work: $76 My commute to midtown: 20 minutes
And it's even tax-deductible without having to itemize it in a tax form, thanks to the TransitChek program my employer is in. Plus, the unlimited monthly card I buy means I get a lot of bang for the buck the more I use it on the weekends and evenings. Sure I take taxis often when it's late at night, and they're getting more expensive but I still think I come out on top compared to so many others. No lease or loan payments, no car insurance, no maintenance costs, no fluctuating gas prices, no repair costs, no garage or parking fees, no traffic jams, no desperate searches for a parking space, no endless freeway commutes.
Also: no mortgage, no utility or home insurance bills, no real estate taxes, no wife, no 2.3 kids, no 2.whatever cars. I don't see myself ever getting married or having kids, so my disposable income situation is VERY good!
I've gotten spoiled enjoying all the unique cultural amenities this city has to offer. At this point in my life, I just can't imagine living somewhere else and giving up the easy access I have to these things. Also, I like to travel, and living right in between three major airports, with two of them being intl. hubs, the rest of the world is just one flight away.
Obviously though, my situation is unique and I give credit only to my parents and dumb luck. Sometimes, I wonder about actually owning (instead of perpetually renting) my own home out in the suburbs; not a McMansion, but spacious enough. But I will probably instead invest in a foreign vacation property or two, which I can then rent out to others when I'm not vacationing in it myself. I think I can earn enough to cover any mortgage I might have to take plus cover some of the rent for my primary residence. In other words, more disposable income!
So I feel a little "stuck" in NYC for now, because I just don't see myself starting over from scratch in a new location. I'm sure the same thing applies to many of you reading this wherever you happen to live or whatever your particular situation is.
[Edited 2007-04-11 23:08:07]
[Edited 2007-04-11 23:28:22]
[Edited 2007-04-11 23:30:15]