Here's a little fact that long time New Yorkers can probably tell you, but even people who have been here for a few years may not know. It is better to be closer to a train, than closer to downtown, even if downtown is where you need to be! It sounds wild, but the train systems in New York are so efficient that the express will often outpace cars.
When I first moved to the city, I lived in Hell's Kitchen. It seemed like the right place to be. A lot was happening there, it had its own culture, and it was a great place. The problem was that I was paying a whole lot of money for a tiny apartment and when I wanted to go out, I had to walk for 10-15 min just to get to the train, then take it to wherever I was going. The result of this was that it took me 30-45 min just to get to Times Square.
Compare that to now. I recently moved to Washington Heights, near The 168th street stop. I'm paying almost half as much for more that twice the space! It's already a great deal, but it gets better. The culture here is easily on par with Hell's Kitchen. There may be fewer options, but the ones that are here are all quality. Aside from that, when I do have to go downtown, I walk for 3 minutes and get on the train. The result is that it takes me about 30 minutes to get to Times Square, which is an commute equal to or better than what I was paying so much for previously. So before you look down town for that easy commute, consider the trains and the beauty that is uptown.