I don't even know where to start. Again, you'll notice that you've decided to compare New York beaches to those from Virginia on south.
That's like saying "again I see you've decided to compare this ugly chick to those who are attractive."
Not sure how anyone could compare them, but to say that New York's beaches are not incredible is just false.
The water temperature off Montuak is currently 62 degrees. During the year it never tops 70. http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/catl.html. Off Savannah it's 82 degrees, and tops out in the mid 80s, and is over 70 for 6 months out of the year.
I would agree that you can do nice things in any city if you leave the city, but my point was that New York can offer all of the same things that the "suburbs" offer with a short commute out of the city, yet there is still the vibrancy of all the things that New York has the other cities don't have. That is the difference in my opinion.
"Short commute?" Aren't the Hamptons hundred miles away? And what does "vibrancy" mean? As far as I can tell, that and "energy" refers to the unending crowds of hipsters and foreigners that clog the NYC streets.
Living a 15 minute or 20 minute commute to the office doesn't present any QoL issues in my opinion. Perhaps my experiences in biglaw are unusual, but I've never felt compelled that I needed to get to the office in 5 minutes.
What places are an honest 15-20 minute commute from midtown east? That's like a 10 minute subway ride once you factor in walking time at both ends. Basically you're talking about union square area (expensive), upper west side (expensive), hells kitchen, and long island city (industrial pollution). The subways are just jam-packed with people, and the subway stations aren't air-conditioned. My commute is pretty short (30 minutes door to door) and is still the most excruciating part of my day.