Take the coarse and then buy.Just get the mask and fins for now.Once you know alittle more you can get some good deals thru magazines and the internet.After you have dove a few times you will know better what type of diving you are interested in.
Tuna, listen to Great White's advice. Take the class first, and then decide what gear you want. All you need to start most courses are a mask, snorkel, and fins. Buy good quality stuff. When you are 80 feet underwater, you don't want some cheap k-mart brand mask leaking or breaking.
As for buying used equipment, everyone has their own opinions. If you decide that scuba is something that you really want to pursue for years and years to come, then I'd suggest buying all new equipment. That way, you get the warranty on everything, and you know the history of your equipment. Something like a wetsuit, drysuit, or fins may not be that big of a deal to purchase used, but I'd only go new on regs and BCs. Make sure that you research the equipment that you want before you buy. Scuba Diving Magazine is a great source for equipment reviews. DO NOT LET THE PRICE DICTATE WHAT YOU BUY. Remember, this stuff has to sustain your life under water, so you don't want to cheap out. By the best stuff that you can, especially if you are going to dive the waters off of NJ frequently.
Make sure that you don't stop with your basic C-card certification. Sign up for Advanced Diver right after you get your basic c-card, and then rescue diver, Master diver, etc. The more training that you have, the better diver you'll become, and you'll find more enjoyment in it.