The metropolitan area follows NYC laws AND accesible by MTA subways and busses. So queens, brooklyn, bronx, and manhattan.
I'm gonna disagree slightly on your NYC Proper v Bagels theory. Nassau, West New York/Bergen/Jersey City/New City are still informally NYC. Let's face it, these placed would still be swamps and farms if there was no NYC. because of that, I think we can allow them the honor of having decent pizza and bagels. Of course they aren't shit compared to NYC proper but they are still allowed on our playing field.
As far as your OP. I left NY when I was in my early 20's. Relocated to SC. Spent 3-4 years and realized I am a NYer and nothing can change that. I missed the organized chaos; the unlimited access to anything and everything I wanted any time of day. Most importantly, and something you won't experience for another 10-15 years -- professional level employment. Outside NYC (including urban sprawl) there is no available work. Sure you can get a job at McDonald's or Walmart but that's about it. Unless your pop is a plant director and he gets you in as midlevel management or you've got an uncle that's a bank manager, you just can't find decent paying work.
When I lived in SC, the best job I could find was Armored Transport at $12 an hour. I moved back to NY, eventually got a job as a tin knocker and I was making $30/hr. I can support my wife and daughter. My job may not be the most glamorous but it's an honest days work and I'm proud of the work I do for people.
Why am I "addicted" to NY? In no particular order:
* it's home - my family has been rooted in NYC since they originally came from Holland and Poland. I'm one of the few that can say I am a born and bred native.
* I can work and support my family.
* there's no where else like it in the world