NYC is a union town & somethig like 99.9999% of the staff RNs (inclduing per diems) here are unionized & most of them are unionized with the NY State Nurses Association. Its the largest RN union, has the strongest contracts & highest pay scales. Some (not many) facilities are not unionized & others are unionized with 1199/SEIU or a smaller independent union. You can ask at your interviews which union represents the nurses at that facility & you can ask about their contract - including such things like staffing ratios, mandatory ot restrictions, etc. The cost of living is comparable to LA but the salaries are better. Rents in the other boros are lower than Manhattan but we have good mass transit so you can easily work in one boro & live in another.
In NYSNA-represented facilities, except for the city-owned public hospitals which may pay less, the new grad ADN staff RN starting salary is $50,000 - $60,000/yr depending on facility. Differentials for education, degrees, yrs of RN experience, shift, and specialty certification are added on top of that. F/T NYSNA RNs do not pay for health benefits for themselves or their families.
Local Staffing Agencies pay about $45/hr - no health benefits
Hospital per diem pay is at least $35... and up
You can check out available jobs at the NYSNA website which lists positions available at the hospitals where they represent the nurses. For others, you can check out the Nursing Spectrum NY edition or the hospitals own websites.
Funny how you live in So Cal & want to relocate here - I live here & want to relocate to So Cal. lol. The grass is always greener isnt it?