SFrost wrote:I'm pretty set on living right by school for first year, but maybe you should explain what commuting is like in NY?
Commuting from Brooklyn is pretty easy to do since the subways run 24/7. Almost all of my friends live in Brooklyn or Queens and commute to work/school by train or bicycle since the rent is so much cheaper and you get more space.
Subway stations are marked pretty clearly and people in NYC are helpful and will direct you if you get lost. Many commuters buy a monthly MetroCard for $112 -- you get unlimited rides on the subway and bus systems anywhere in the five boroughs for 30 days. Even if you don't commute, you'll probably want a MetroCard anyways -- it's one of the easiest/cheapest ways to get around the city. Just swipe the card at fare control and walk onto the platform; busy subway lines during rush hour have trains every few minutes, during non-peak hours they'll come every 6-10 minutes, at very late hours expect trains heading to Brooklyn every 20 minutes.
I imagine many people will be looking at Bushwick. It's urban but more small-cityish than Manhattan. Lots of young people, big art scene, many bars and venues. You can take the L (local running underground on Harrison and Wyckoff in Bushwick) which should be 15 to 20 minutes to Union Square and a 12 minute walk to the west side of NYU. If you're further south, I recommend the M (local running above ground on Broadway and Myrtle in Bushwick) which is a 17 minute train ride that brings you right to the west side of NYU.
Biking would take me about 45 minutes (but I'm a slow biker riding a folder). You'll probably head north to link up with the Grand Av bike path, then head over the Williamsburg Bridge (you're going to develop sick calves). You might be tempted to save time by taking Broadway all the way to the bridge, but you should only do this if you have a death wish.
I'll be in Sunset Park, a super diverse neighborhood further south. It's similarly small-cityish, but has a much different feel. There are still young people and lots of good bars/restaurants, but the demographics are a little older, and it's considered a family neighborhood (the area is much less "hip"). Great parks, tons of green space, and close to Prospect Park and Park Slope. The D, N, and R trains run on the same stretch of track underground on 4th Ave, so you have three trains that can get you to NYU, all on the same platform. The D and N run express in Brooklyn and will get you to NYU in 20 minutes; the D will bring you directly to the west side of NYU; the N is a 6 to 8 minute walk.
Biking would take me about an hour (again, slow biker). The 5th Av bike path is your best bet, head north on Smith St when you hit Park Slope, then follow the signs to the Manhattan Bridge.