Flamboyant 80s pop star Boy George donned a slightly different outfit than usual yesterday - fluorescent jacket, gloves and shades - as he began five days of community service with New York's sanitation department for wasting police time.

But the singer's stint sweeping the streets of Manhattan was over within half an hour, after he was mobbed by media as he tried to brush leaves and put litter in bins.

By 7.50am the musician - real name George O'Dowd - and his two fellow workers had been returned to the sanitation department's garage, where he worked instead in the car park, behind a fence but still in full view.

Earlier he unleashed a barrage of angry rants at reporters, at one point sweeping a pile of leaves angrily towards cameras.

"This is supposed to be community service," he said at one point.

"You're just making it a nightmare which just means it's for the media and not for me."

O'Dowd also told reporters asking whether he was troubled by the menial nature of his task: "My mum was a cleaner, my dad was a builder, know what I mean?"

After a convoy of at least ten cars chased the sanitation department van around the cramped streets of Chinatown, O'Dowd was returned to the safety of the depot.

Sanitation department deputy chief Albert Durrell said he had taken the singer off the streets because he was concerned for everyone's safety.

Instead, he said, the former Culture Club front man would spend the rest of his eight hour shift and possibly the rest of the week working at the garage.

"He'll be hand sweeping the area along the fence," Mr Durrell said.

He added that there was always work to be done inside the building as well, mopping and cleaning up baskets and other things.

O'Dowd turned up for duty just before 7am wearing a black fleece top and cut-off track suit bottoms, and was made to walk from his car into the building in front of waiting cameras.

When he left in a van with two other people doing community service 20 minutes later, he was laughing and joking with his fellow workers.

But as soon as the vehicle stopped for the group to be issued with their red and yellow jackets, brooms, shovels and large bins, his mood changed.

A superviser explained to the singer how to do the work, telling him to line the dustbin with a plastic bag, taking the tools out first, before starting to shovel in the debris.

Asked about his thoughts on his new job, O'Dowd replied: "I don't feel anything, I just think you're really pathetic."

When a reporter pointed out that he was the one sweeping the streets, the star sniped back: "You're the one following me, sweeping the streets."