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Accommodation around but not necessarily in New York

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Hi everyone, I just joined this forum and have high hopes :)
My husband and I are Australian retirees - young at heart :) - and are planning a trip to the east coast of USA in July/August for about 8 weeks.
We are planning to fly to New York but would like to stay not necessarily in the city but in some nice cosy, non-touristy accommodation. Someone mentioned to us that there are lovely litttle places in New Jersey just across from and with good transportation to New York. Unfortunately they did not remember any names.
We'll possibly spend up to a week in the New York area.
When we travel we don't often do the "touristy" things but like to find our own way and do our own thing. Use public transport, get "lost", meet and interact with locals.
I'm really hoping to receive advice, suggestions and tips. And not just about accommodation. Thanks.

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