cate, I don't think NYU is worth the additional cost over Cal or UCLA. NYU is a good school, but it is also big - so even though its private -- you have all of the red tape, long lines, big classes, etc. that goes with a public university -- and I think that a degree from UCLA or Berkeley is actually seen as more prestigious.
I know the appeal of NYU -- my daughter certainly wanted to go there -- but you will get the same or better education in California for half the cost. Keep in mind that the money you save can be applied to travel opportunities, including visits to NY. So unless you are rich.... go with whichever California campus you like better. You can always find the opportunity to live and work in NY or any other city you choose after college.