Any town beyond Madison (~ 60 min to NYC on njtransit Dover line) will take more than 1 hour commute to NYC! If you think that 25 - 30 min drive to Rockaway is OK for you, than I could suggest Livingston/ Florham Park. Your wife could park at the Livingston mall (free parking) and take a jitney (2$) - 10 min ride to South Orange train station (25 min to NYC). Or may be Summit/Chatham/ New Providence (direct train 40-50 min to NYC).
I would be happy to help you with your house hunt.
Best of luck,
If commuting is your top concern i recommend towns near I 80 with train service,
Rutherford,Elmwood Park, Fairlawn , Woodland Park, Little Falls, Cedar Grove
It is about a 30 minute commute for each of you.
You will be close to all highways.
Let me know if I can help
Taxes can very greatly from town to town - as do prices.
Most of the "train towns" that are closer to the city (Millburn, Summit, Chatham, for example ) are pricey, so $500,000 won't buy you as much house as some towns that do not have the Mid Town Direct train into Penn Station.
Livingston might be a good fit for you as the taxes are not as high as some other Essex County towns, and you can get a 3/4 br, 2 - 2.5 bath home in your price range - taxes will be around $11,000 ish! With the new jitney service from the Livingston Mall to the train, commuters now have an additional way to get to the city (besides the Coach USA #77 bus route).
Rockaway would be, approximately, a 20-25 min ride .
Please visit my website where I have links you might find useful for additional town information.
I'd be happy to help you sort through your options!
Prudential NJ Properties
you might want to consider Denville- train to mid town direct ( and buses)
Very easy cocommute for you.
Denville has a great downtown area with nice restaurants and shopping and good schools.
I will be happy to send you current listings if you provde your email address.
By the way- I have lived in Denville for 17 years and love it.