THE CONSTITUTION adopted in 1894 and revised in 1938 remains the Constitution of the State of New York in the waning years of the twentieth century. This constitution represents the culmination of nineteenth-century constitution-making and nineteenth-century ideas regarding the nature and function of a constitution. It did not address issues that were raised by an expanding industrial state, including the role of the state in promoting the economic and social welfare of the citizenry, the role of labor in the economy, the efficiency and effectiveness of the state's executive branch, pressure for additional home rule powers for cities, and relief from constitutional tax and debt limitations. The failure of the 1915 constitutional convention left these issues to be addressed by constitutional amendments.
Two minor adjustments were made to Section 7. The 1894 convention permitted owners of undrained land to invoke eminent domain to improve their land. The Court of Appeals limited the usefulness of this provision by declaring that assessments for the improvements could be made only on the landholders whose land was being drained. An amendment in 1919 permitted assessments on any property benefiting from the drainage. As there was some doubt as to whether this use of eminent domain was for a public purpose or use, the amendment declared that drainage of such land was a public use.
A 1913 amendment gave cities the authority to make "excess condemnations" of property in the construction of public improvements. The purpose was to protect cities from protracted litigation over the question of damages to land adjacent to such sites. Such damaged land would be of little use to the city or the property owner after litigation.