VERY LONG POST!! (you've been warned)
I've been trolling on SF for a few weeks and as an ex-real estate agent from NYC (did it while at college at NYU), this chain and topic finally kicked my butt into registering to I could help you out Personally, I've lived in NYC for 9 years though I moved out about a year ago to go back to school (so that I too can make enough to spend 8k/month on an apartment by my early 30's
), so excuse me if my number are a hair off. Also, when I say NYC I mean Manhattan, no offense to the outer boroughs.
That being said - I have no love for real estate agents in NYC - if you are willing to do the legwork you can usually save the fee and sometimes score a free month of rent from your landlord (when you see a no-fee apartment at a big building really all that's happening is that the building is paying the agent 1 months rent). The standard fee currently is 15% of 1 years rent and can usually be negotiated to 12%, 10% or a flat 1 month of rent (never understood why but we were coached that those were the only acceptable levels of fees never anything in between). A great place to start is ww.nybits.com. It lists many of the luxury buildings in nyc by area. Visit their website and/or call to get their availability. You can also use Craigslist and often reverse search luxury buildings by typing in some of the key descriptors into google. Avoid any agent that puts a lot of pressure on you to buy right away by saying the market or an apartment is hot. High pressure, tag teaming, etc hard sales tactics are very common in the field.
Your budget is fine, though remember that places usually like to see a yearly salary of at least 40x one months rent. I'd look for a kickass one bedroom in the 4000-6000 range, anything over that in most buildings is overkill (though the millennium in battery park has some of the nicest finishing's and may come in a bit over that). If you can afford 8k/month I am assuming you can afford to have an air mattress or a really nice sofa couch assuming visitors only stop by every once in a while otherwise the "top end" 2 br's come in between 5k-8k. You probably already know, but NYC is a good deal more expensive than Boston with cheaper areas comparable to Beacon Hill.
Given that your job is in Hoboken you should plan on taking the PATH train to work. Its public transportation, but honestly keeping a car in NYC sucks and driving would take you worlds longer any how's. You won't be alone in your reverse commute as there are a ton of people who do it.
That being said we can knock off a number of areas:
Anything outside Manhattan (because in that case you might as well live in Hoboken...)
Upper East Side (including Lenox Hill, Carnegie etc that are sub areas of the UES)
Lower, Center and East Midtown (including turtle bay, Sutton, Beekman, Kips Bay, Murray Hill,
East Village/Lower East Side (including Alphabet city bowery, two bridges, Chinatown, little Italy, Noho)
Places that might still work
Downtown area, Battery Park City, TriBeCa, Southern SoHo - all are "reasonable" walks to the world trade center path station
Northern SoHo, West Village, Greenwich Willage, meatpacking district - all "reasonable" to either Christopher st or 9th st path stops
Chelsea, southern Hell's kitchen, the garment district and the western edge of gramercy would all be reasonable to either the 23rd st or 33rd st stop.
Of all of these I would recommend:
TriBeCa (Triangle below Canal Street), - Great area with some of the best food that is usually less crowded (albeit more expensive) than other areas in Manhattan. TONS of new families and young couples. When I lived there me and my three roommates used to joke that people could tell we didn't belong because we didn't have a baby or a dog :P. The best whole foods is here as long as a good movie theater not far in battery park. That being said, a lot of the "party" scene is in the village (east/west), soho, meatpacking etc so if you spend a lot of times at the bars this might not be ideal. Warning that some large complex's claim to be in TriBeCa but are across the Westside highway (ex: the Tribeca green) close to Battery Park - I consider these to be part of Battery park city. One downside is that if you are on the western side of TriBeCa your subway access gets limited to mostly the red line. Also note that I am including parts of the city hall area in TriBeCa which may or may not be how other agents do it.
SoHo (South of Houston St) - best (and most expensive) shopping in NYC. Most people say it has a good mix of food and party places though I have always had trouble picking out any places I really love in the area. Prices vary wildly in SoHo and can be hard to predict since demand fluctuates on literally a street to street level. Definitely do some comparison shopping before committing to anything in this area. I found good grocery shopping a little hard to come by here. The people who live in the area though are a really good mix and match of people though.
West Village (Not to be confused with Greenwich Village to its direct east). A little quieter and cooler than the NYU over run part of the village with great food and easy access to the party places. It's a bit of a walk to certain subways but I think this area is awesome. Good mix of people walking around here but can be overrun with NYU students on occasion. That being said there are not many good apartments available in this area for rent and they often go for a premium that I'm not sure is really justified by the area.
Battery park - very easy access to the world trade center path but very very limited eating/drinking options locally. Very quiet area. Many building will get you awesome water views and balconies though. You really have to walk to get to a subway but cabs come all the time to the world financial center so unless its really pouring they are usually easy to find. I lived here for a year and loved sitting in my living room and just staring out at the statue of liberty or out onto the river. Very easy access to the movie theater here
Chelsea - I'm not really intimately familiar with Chelsea, having never lived there, but the area covers a rather large swathe of land that can go from quiet tree lined streets that are a little further west (and hence a longer walk to the PATH) to busy shopping areas near stores like Best Buy and Home depot. Good food available though again I don't really know the area all that well
Odd option - you could consider living on the Upper West Side and then driving or taking the subway to the PATH - it's not that hard, the area has become really popular with late 20/early 30 something's and there are some great apartments up there. Lots of really great food, shopping etc has opened there in the last 5 years that makes it way more attractive than a few years ago
Please note - you may/will need certain documents to get your apartment in NYC that are not necessarily common in other cities. You don't usually need this much but it's good to be aware. Specifically:
-\tCurrent and/or the past 3 months statements from ALL of your bank and investments accounts (this has at times included 401k/retirement funds)
-\tCurrent and/or past tax returns
-\tProof of Employment
-\tProof of income - usually they ask for your salary, any guaranteed bonus and last years bonus listed out. Your employer should be familiar with this nad their HR should be able to give the right document to you (though it can take time). An offer letter is also usually sufficient.
-\tAny and all of the above for your spouse (if she files separately or if you have non-joint accounts)
If you are interested in holding on to your car, some people I know put their car at a garage in storage where they pay a lot less to park but have to give something like 24 or 48 hours' notice to use their car
Also - on your budget you probably want to look for a doorman building. I can't tell you how much of a hassle it is to try to be at home to pick up your own packages when the UPS delivers them at like 1 pm (they won't leave it outside)