Well, first — even if you’re purely a traditional illustrator, being within personal delivery distance of your client doesn’t matter, if you show up to an office with an oil painting, they’ll stare at you as if you just tried to order a filet mignon from arby’s, then send your ass home to get it scanned or photographed, outputted to print dimensions at 300+dpi, converted to their printer’s color profile, and then emailed as a secure link to a properly named uncompressed tiff file.
As for doing the whole art thing in New York, you don’t need it at all, it’s just an experience. Having all these museums, galleries, and publications doesn’t magically unlock career opportunities, it’s just stuff to explore and see a bit closer than from a computer screen. Cool and memorable things happen here all the time, but when it comes to work, every job I’ve had started with an email or phone call, not a meeting — once even from a text message. I could do exactly what I do career-wise from a Walter White cabin in the mountains so long as I had power and high-speed internet. I just prefer to do it here because a) it keeps you motivated by being constantly surrounded by people succeeding or trying to succeed, and b) you can get literally almost anything delivered at a moments notice. Living in New York is something I recommend to anyone as a place worth experiencing, but I don’t stay here for any reason related to my career in art — it’s just a beautiful, unique, soul-crushing, cynicism-inducing, uplifting, magical, romantic, and disgusting place.