The best times of year (auroral activity peaks) are around February-March and then again from late September through early November. Activity peaks near equinox, but viewing conditions become better closer to winter. Cloudy skies are more pronounced in fall rather than late winter, so overall better observation chances are in mid- to late-February.
The sites below can give you a day's worth of warning when a large solar ejection event is seen, by using pictures of the solar surface and corona. These events are more likely to occur during the solar maximum -- the period of the sun's solar cycle when it is most active. These events would result in auroras visible even from the latitude of New York, from a site with low light pollution. The next solar maximum will occur in three to four years.
However, now you can get a couple of hours of warning at the sites below, which monitor the solar wind even during a solar minimum. The next best observation period will be in September or October. The closest observation site north of New York would be in Canada, north of Ontario, somewhere around the Hudson Bay or Quebec. Substorms are best seen around 11 p.m. local time.