>1. apartmentally speaking, east village (E and 6th specifically) is that good parts? know that it used to be a shithole, how 'bout now? $900/month?
Try doubling that price, or more. The East Village has sort of gentrified and become extremely expensive.
>2. what is a "good deal" (in all the areas) concerning rent-to-value? (value being common sense safe, light on the bugs, easy transport, etc.)
Too long of an answer is required... And I'm probably not even that good of a person to respond, since I'm a homeowner, not a renter, and haven't been a renter in years.
>3. how does one get a place from out of town?
One stays with friends who live in NYC, looks for an apt either through the classifieds or through a real estate agent in the neighborhood(s) you are looking in, and tells the landlord you just moved here with plenty of dough in your pockets and healthy job prospects and hope they believe you. Alternately, you somehow get the job first then the landlord really will have no problem.
>4. is a 13 year stay for a non-native 'normal?'
I think so, yes. Most of my best friends in NYC moved here between 5 and 15 years ago and most aren't talking about leaving any time soon. I am truly fascinated to see how another big terrorist attack would change all that, though.
>what brought you there?
there was no place else that made sense for me and my girlfriend to go where we could both be completely satisfied professionally and personally.
>is there a gut-check-self-test one can take to know if they got what it takes to 'make it' there? feel free to give an answer to a human you don't know.
No such test is available. You either have to have the desperation to make it work or the self confidence to make it work. But that's the same for a lotta moves into a lotta places, I think.