I love NYC. Been there 13 times (first time in 1970 as a senior in high school) and always ready to go again!
It depends on whether you want a monthly payment or not, whether you want to build wealth or not, and so on so I can't really address all the scenarios here. Also, you don't really need a lot of tax deductions (if any) since you have retired.
However, here a couple scenarios:
1) If you don't want a monthly payment, use your cash to buy your house. If you ever change your mind and decide you need money for something, you can borrow against the house.
2) If you want to build wealth, use the VA loan for buying your house and use your cash for down payments to buy rental properties and let the tenants pay off those mortgages. Which is better for you (and your heirs if any), to have one house paid off when you are 80 or 4 to 8 houses paid off when you are 80? NOTE: I used to own a property management company (called CBE) that I still advise and work closely with the new owner who can manage everything for you if you don't want to manage them yourself. CBE also does tenant screening and runs credit reports and background checks which is the key to having great tenants and fewer problems.
Lots of other scenarios exist and I would be happy to talk with you or email with you to discuss what your goals are to then advise on some strategies for you to consider.
The web reference below is from my website search for $200,000 to $400,000 houses in Alvamar but using the advanced search on my website will allow you to search via over 80 fields with over 1000 search criteria to go by builder, by age of property, by DOM (Days on Market), and so on.
Let me know if I can be of more help!